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.
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.
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?