Another Kind of Conference

I just returned from Tribe Conference, 2017, and I am still overflowing from the experience.

giphy7As an unpublished novelist, I’m a frequent traveler on the Imposter Syndrome Express, and that’s where my head still was when I arrived to Franklin, TN for Tribe Con. You see, I wasn’t sure I was supposed to be there.

My boss and friend, the inimitable Andrew Burleson, attended Tribe last year. This time, he couldn’t make it, so I stepped in instead.

Yes, Andrew, I can hear you in my ear saying, “Of course you were supposed to be there!” but try to convince Jess of Friday Past that.

giphy6Last year, Andrew and Paul Kilpatrick had only begun to test their software, Betabooks. It was a brand-new baby site with a handful of users when along came Loudmouth Me with a gaggle of betareaders. (Can I talk about Betabooks and how amazing it is all day? Well, yeah, and I’d love to do that, but that’s not this post.) I love their site so much, they pulled me in to help. So off I drove to TN, ready to find some tired writers who need what we have.

giphy13I should mention, because this weighed on my heart all weekend, I left behind my family of 5 to move into our first-ever-home-of-our-own. This meant my husband—heart and back conditions and all—enjoyed the glorious task of managing that tremendous event himself. (If you spotted me muttering worriedly at my phone, now you know why.)

Then Tribe—TRIBE!

giphy5You guys! In the span of 3 days, I learned more about my situation and progress with my writing goals and craft than I had in two years. I met hard-working, earnest creatives eager to jump toward their dreams, and I felt invigorated, connected, alive! I went to work, and I did that, too, but that was the least of my weekend.

Tribe had this “other” vibe that took me out of my business-focused brainspace and into this peer-focused playspace. The impulse to plug, “Betabooks! Betabooks! Come solve your betareading problems!” slipped into something deeper, and I was able to focus on listening, really listening, and engaging in a way I *cough* rarely do offline. In some fashion, I felt torn, since I was “sent” to perform but there I was doodling story ideas, plotting collaborations, and figuring out my own head and heart instead.

giphy14No big deal, though—Andrew knew that would happen (didn’t I say he’s awesome?). I think sending me to Tribe was a test to see if I’d take the bait and be a whole person out there in the crowds or just a marketer in over my head.

(Little does he know, lol, I live every moment in over my head!)

For those wondering what I learned—man, where do I  start? There were all these little things that added up to:

“I feel awesome about the path I’m on and how I’m moving forward.”

And considering my card-carrying Imposter Syndrome thing, that was no easy task!

Some of the highlights for me:

10 minute goals.

giphy8Several speakers touched on this idea, if from different angles, but this was by far ringing the loudest in my ears when I returned home. Tiny, ten-minute commitments–I can do that right now!

giphy15I came back to a maze of stacked boxes, not a single functional room, and no time to empty my head before Normal Life resumed Monday morning. One tiny task at a time, in ten-minute increments, I managed that first day “home.” I found opportunities to write, edit, and critique—my weekly commitments—as well as unpacking one room, then two, then half of another. It wasn’t even hard.

I totally felt like Super Woman.

Show up every day.

giphy9This should be self-explanatory, but, lol, no. This was a good lesson for me, because sometimes I “show up” but only in my head. This means to literally show up, whether it’s posting on my blog every day or pushing forward with my stories.


giphy10The mastermind exercise is my favorite lesson of Tribe Con 2017. I’ve introduced it to my family already, and I’m looking forward to years of more fruitful family meetings. I can even see ways to adapt the process to my critique and betareading groups, which might lessen some of the major stresses that pop up there from time to time. If anyone’s interested, comment below, and I’ll hunt up some links for you.

A few other quotables

  • Write your next book, not the last one.
  • Better to be first than to compete; invent your own category.
  • Be the weirdo in the room.
  • Eliminate your secret rules.

giphy11I’m certain  as I situate my house (and head), I’ll realize a hundred more things that aren’t resonating quite as clearly yet. I’ll be reaching out throughout the next couple of weeks, so, if we missed each other at the conference or you haven’t heard from me, seek me out. Find me on Book Twitter, Facebook, and Scribophile daily where I’m keeping up with my CPs and betareaders. I’m always happy to connect.

And if you haven’t checked out and what Andrew and team are doing–seriously, that’s just weird, because it’s the coolest thing to ever happen to betareading.

Thank you, Tribe. I am so grateful for Tribe Con and to every one involved for sharing your stories (and smiles and tears and chocolate) with me.

giphy12Ever forward, writers!

2 thoughts on “Another Kind of Conference

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