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Writing, wine and great people – the 2014 Women’s Fiction Conference in Matera, Italy

Sitting on the patio of my hotel room in Matera, Italy this past weekend, the following notions filled my mind. The first was, “What a view, looks just like the Tower of Babel.” The second, “They’re all so friendly here.” And the third, “I got this.”

A day after returning to Vienna, though the warm pleasant tingles of Monticello Vino Rosso have subsided, nothing will erode my now ironclad conviction that I am writer capable of controlling my own destiny.

Pure liberation.

Women's FIction Conference 2014, Matera, Italy

Women’s FIction Conference 2014, Matera, Italy

I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pencil. The first real money I ever made came from mowing grass in 100 degree heat an entire summer long so I could purchase a typewriter so advanced, it could store an entire line of words and magically erase them all at the touch of a button.

So I wrote and after some time resisted the urge to erase all the lines. And keenly aware that to get from Once-Upon-A-Time to The-End, I’d have to be disciplined, so I was. And once I managed that, after saving money from years of working a non-writer’s job, I completed an MFA writing program to improve my craft. There I learned that to sell my book, I’d need an agent and to get an agent I’d need the perfect pitch. And even if I managed to successfully sell its irresistible traits in this speed dating equivalency game of the publishing industry, there were still no guarantees that my novel would ever glimpse the whites of a reader’s avid eyes.

Oh, and, don’t forget the eight percent. Yep. Eight percent is what I could expect to garner from each copy sold. So if a book cost about 10 USD, I could buy myself one packet of a Vienna McDonald’s ketchup for every sale.

Shocked? So was I.

Matera, Italy, view over the Sassi

Matera, Italy, view over the Sassi

Something seemed wrong in the world (besides the fact that I was eating at McDonald’s). Something needed to change. And thanks to the advent of digital media, it has.

And that’s why the Women’s Fiction Conference proved to be a wealth of indispensable information. Agents, publishers, and authors spent Wednesday to Sunday openly discussing everything related to writing, publishing and selling books. Topics included digital productions, promotion tips, translations, audiobooks, and more. Top selling indie authors like Bella Andre, Tina Folsom and Debra Holland graciously shared their personal self-publishing experiences. Meanwhile gurus like historical fiction writer, David Gaughran, offered one-on-one sessions to help writers interested in self-publishing. British agent, Andrew Lownie, and US St. Martin’s editor, Monique Patterson, sat down with writers to listen to pitches and share their views. Sessions like “United We Stand: Helping Each Other” and “Indie Unconference” provided writers with an extensive overview about the challenges and rewards that lie ahead for writers who self-publish.

Besides vino rosso, tiramisu (oh the things you discover about name origins), freshly brewed cappuccinos, enlightening after-hours discussions and funky silent street discos, what made Matera such a great conference, was the people. Attendees and speakers alike united in the common language of book lovers and storytellers to open up and cut through the current industry tower of babel to tell it like it is.

So I think I got this now. My future holds more than just a packet of ketchup.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Jennings for all her hard work in putting together a conference like none other of its kind in Europe, and to my former professor, Shelley Adina, for suggesting I attend.

Women’s Fiction Conference Website: http://www.womensfictionfestival.com/en

Brueghel's Tower of Babel. Vienna Museum of Art History

Brueghel’s Tower of Babel. Vienna Museum of Art History

The view from my hotel balcony in Matera, Italy

The view from my hotel balcony in Matera, Italy

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