By Mike Befeler
I’ve been to every RMFW Gold Conference since 2002. The first year I went, I had no clue what I was doing. A writing friend had suggested the conference, so I decided to give it a shot. She was the only person I knew at the conference.
I had started writing in the fall of 2001, having made the decision that I wanted to retire into fiction writing. I had learned that if you’re 55 or over you can take any course for free at the University of Colorado with the instructor’s permission and had signed up for a fiction writing course. I also negotiated with my boss so that I could work 3 days a week, allowing me to take the course and do some writing.
In fact, the first day I was going to write for the whole morning was a Tuesday morning in September. I got organized at my writing desk and was about to start when my phone rang. It was the CEO of the company I worked for asking if I had seen the reports on what had happened. I hadn’t watched television that morning because I didn’t want to get distracted from my first morning of writing. That was September 11, and, needless to say, I never got any writing done that day.
At my first conference I learned about critique groups and over the years have joined several RMFW critique groups, which helped me improve my writing.
By 2005 I had a novel that I decided to submit in the mystery category for the contest at the conference. I didn’t place in the top 3 but received a packet back with some excellent suggestions and madly rewrote my manuscript, so by the time of the conference, I had an improved novel that I had a lot of confidence in. At the conference that year, I pitched my idea to two agents and two editors. Deni Dietz of Five Star liked the concept and told me to email my complete manuscript to her.
After the conference, I went home, completed one more editing pass on my manuscript, emailed it to Deni and crossed my fingers. Two months later I received an email with a contract offer, and my first novel, Retirement Homes Are Murder, was published in January, 2007, the result of a pitch session at the RMFW conference.
Attending the first conference in 2001, I took careful notes on writing craft, which helped me improve my skills. Then I started paying attention to how to pitch a novel, which prepared me for 2005. Next, I focused on sessions of what to do to sell your novel once it’s been published. I still attend as many sessions as possible, and learn more each year.
That’s the beauty of being in the writing world. It’s an ongoing education.
See you at the RMFW Gold Conference this year.
Mike Befeler is active in organizations promoting a positive image of aging. He holds a Master’s degree from UCLA and a Bachelor’s degree from Stanford. Author of the popular “geezer lit” Paul Jacobson mystery series, he has recently branched out into standalones such as The V V Agency.