Crossroads went back to the drawing board and now we have something new to tell you

Crossroads went back to the drawing board and now we have something new to tell you

Earlier this year, we hit a brick wall. The planning for our next Crossroads Writers Conference had gone swimmingly …until it didn’t. Suddenly, the puzzle pieces weren’t fitting together anymore.

What happened?

We couldn’t get the venue we wanted on the same weekend as the conference hotel we wanted. A tall order, but not an impossible task.

And then… we found out two of our favorite (and vital) organizers become mamas this fall. Another beloved Crossroader, a committee chair, gets married in October.

There’s always a lot to juggle with the conference because we’re an all-volunteer group, so with this news, the venue/hotel trouble and us Von Braun Hornes now living in Akron, Ohio, the answer seemed clear: step back and re-evaluate.

So we’re putting the conference on hiatus until 2015 and going back to the drawing board.

The first step in this process was asking our people how we can actually help.

What are your goals? What are your roadblocks? What, if anything, have you gotten out of Crossroads in the past?

Whenever we’ve asked before, it’s been about the conference. You know, how can we improve it?

Now, we’re thinking bigger. How can we help you all year long?

What did we learn?

A lot, actually. I’ll start with some broad strokes here and where it’s leading us. Then, over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share more in-depth results from the survey.

In a nutshell, this is what you told us:

#1) Our people have big, awesome, inspiring goals for their writing but often struggle to finish what they start.

#2) They want to connect to other people, specifically readers and other writers.

#3) Most want to make a life and a living from telling stories. (Only two cited “conquer the world” as a goal.)

#4) They need more help than the Crossroads Writers Conference has provided.

While almost everyone who responded about the conference offered some kind of praise, two things really hit home.

One, most of our people–and you can include me–have great fun at the conference and leave feeling motivated …then we get back into regular life, lose momentum and our awesome writing project goes undone for another year.

Two, a full third (33%) of the total survey respondents HAVE NEVER ATTENDED THE CONFERENCE.

What does that tell us?

The short- and long-term goals of Crossroaders and those who’ve never attended are almost identical. The roadblocks they’ve encountered and the help they need are almost exactly the same. And they’ve had about the same amount of success.

Clearly, we can do more–perhaps much more–to help. So we are. That’s the whole goal now.

We started the conference as a bridge between amateurs and professionals, hoping to help more beginners across said metaphor. Our motivation is the same now but we won’t be limited to an annual event.

Will there still be a conference? Yes. Will it still be in Macon? As long as the city will have us. Will I spend the rest of this blog post answering questions I’ve asked? Probably.

But there will be more than just the conference so put that aside for now.

What are you going to do?

My vision is to offer up an online community that’s available year-round with both the tools to learn at your own pace and (perhaps more importantly) the support to help you think through your goals and hold you accountable to them.

There’s another change. As serious as we are about the art and craft of storytelling, we’ve always acknowledged the entrepreneurial aspect of being a writer in the 21st century. You’ve got to hustle. Some might get big manna-like checks from traditional publishers but you can’t count on that ever being you.

So we’re revving up how we help you understand The Hustle without losing sight of the most important part: Telling good stories. Without it, you have nothing to hustle. It’s about the art and entrepreneurship of writing. Crossroads is where they meet.

But… why?

We believe humanity benefits from an abundance of good stories, whether fiction or non-fiction, written for the big screen or comics or as short stories or in a magazine. We are, as Chuck dubbed it, “genre agnostic”. We care about story.

From there, the math is simple for us. The more storytellers become good storytellers, the more good stories we’ll have. And the more good storytellers who’ve learned to make a living telling good stories, the more good stories they’ll tell and the more we’ll have.

So that’s our goal. Helping you write more, write better and hustle harder.

We’d love your feedback. What do you think about this direction? Where do you think we should start? How can we help YOU?

 

8 Comments

  1. Like the idea of year-round community interaction, however that might be done. Would terribly miss the conference if that were cancelled. Not sure why one particular hotel should be so critical, but you must have your reasons. If fees for the conference were bumped up a little, could there be some paid help to alleviate all the burden on volunteers?

    Reply
    • Hey Kelly, thank you for writing! Glad you asked for specifics. It wasn’t one particular hotel that threw a monkeywrench in the works. Every year we look at multiple options for the conference venue and the hotel where our out-of-town guests stay. However, that wasn’t the deal breaker. We have a small, dedicated crew that puts on the conference. I now live 800 miles away and three of our key people are unavailable to help. Others were ready to take on other projects. We simply didn’t have the people to make it work without risking a very bad experience for our attendees. If everything was working out perfectly with the venue and hotel, it may have been a different story but all these things combined, it just wasn’t worth the risk. – Chris

      Reply
  2. It is important for writers to meet the other writers behind the books they see and read. If we don’t discover the humanity behind the written words, we may lose a bit of it ourselves writing our words. I’m cool with the conference going on a hiatus in 2014 (sort of did that from Feb 2010 to Oct 2011), but make every effort to get it back together in 2015. We need this!

    Reply
    • Mr. Qualls, amen. The best thing about the conference is that it’s an excuse to get writers together. As you point out, this isn’t new for us either. We had an extended break before the second Crossroads so Heather and I could get married. This gives us a chance, too, to take a look at when we hold the conference. Every October, we seem to be planning against the Georgia RWA and around the same time as a couple other cons. Maybe it should be earlier in the fall or late in the Spring? Either way, we’ll have another conference and as I mentioned on Twitter, we’re working up plans for smaller meet-ups too. Both plans for intimate, intensive retreats and NaNoWriMo-inspired write-up type deals. Keep writing! See you soon, Chris! – Chris

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  3. Chris, I know you don’t remember me but I attended the Conference several years back via a scholarship win. Which is probably what kept me trying for publication, as it wasn’t the fee for attendance that made me apply for the scholarship, it was the thought “if I can’t win one of twenty scholarships, I’ve got no business trying to publish.” I write as Gail Roughton and now have nine books up on Amazon (http://amzn.to/1jPvm2Q), with several more in process. The Conference gave me the confidence to continue trying to get where I am now (still a small fish in a big pond), but nothing prepares a writer for the professional world of publishing. Nothing except actually being there. No one actually learns to write UNTIL they’re there, because they learn from older, seasoned writers kind enough to share their wisdom with any “newbie” smart enough to listen. I’ve seen many writers publish one book and believe that qualifies them as a writer who doesn’t need to listen to critique. It doesn’t. A good writer doesn’t ever fully believe they are a good writer. A good writer isn’t so in love with their own words they won’t cut them out of a manuscript like a surgeon. Little things matter. Show–don’t tell. Easy to say, very difficult to do. Excess words. Overuse of descriptive adjectives and adverbs. Massive overuse of the word “that” in sentences. Overdone tags. Nothing is less intrusive than a simple “said.” Dialogue that sounds like regular folks just talking. One of the greatest gifts the Conference could give an aspiring writer is a basic course in the difference between professional writing and writing that’s trying to be professional. Of equal import, I think, would be a crash course on exactly how to go about breaking into this world–and today, that’s e-pub. I believe Crossroads has had some seminars on that, but it’s so absolutely major in today’s world it can’t be discussed enough. It’s had some seminars on how to submit, I know, I attended one, but quite honestly, the one I attended several years ago was massively outdated even then and even I knew it. Following the Writer’s Guides for same–that just doesn’t cut it in today’s world. There are also many scam companies out there, many borderline companies, and many companies (and contracts) from which writers should run, not walk. It’s very easy for “newbies” to get scammed because they want so desperately to see their work published. Every aspiring writer could benefit from a crash course on what to look for and what to run from. I was extremely lucky to actually connect with a wonderful small e-press that’s in process of becoming not so small and moving into print. That was strictly luck. Others aren’t so lucky and such a course would be a Godsend to many “newbies”.

    Reply
    • Gail, I absolutely remember you! It’s only a shame it’s been so long since we corresponded. You wouldn’t believe how proud I am of all you’ve done. It’s truly impressive! And it sounds like you’d have a lot to share with folks who were once in your shoes. I mean, you’ve clearly learned a lot by doing it. So if you’re interested in sharing some of that, I’d love to discuss it with you. Shoot me an email, please! Chris (at) CrossroadsWriters (dot) org

      Reply
  4. What an awesome and encouraging post, Gail! Go you! Now I’m sad I have to wait until 2015 to meet you at the next Crossroads Conference. (You’ll be there, right?) In the meantime, I’m headed to Amazon to download one of your books.

    Reply
    • Kathy, Gail, if all goes as planned, we’ll have at least one little get together this year, so don’t lose hope. – Chris

      Reply

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