Jason E. Fort
Surrounded by Experts
I just got back from my second Killer Nashville Writers Conference, and I am once again astounded at the people who have the same passion that I do for telling a a good story. Not only was everyone there passionate, but it seemed like everyone there was an expert in their own right; and I mean that in the most positive way possible. I think it is awesome when 200+ people from all walks of life can get together and learn from some of the more notable authors, but then also learn from other people who have other important information to share. It was just a lot of fun for this big oaf to call people at the conference my peers. Sure, there were many people there who had lives nothing like the one I have led, but there were people who come from what may seem to be the most mundane circumstances, who for a brief time, got to share the spotlight with people passionate about their craft, and give their input on their particular experiences; and the listeners at the different panel sessions listened eagerly, offered questions, and sincerely took something from the sessions whenever they could.
Some of the experts were experts in things unique only to them, according to their day jobs, such as law enforcement officers or military veterans. I was blessed to be in this ilk. And the authors that attended, some of whom I know have had their share of high selling books, were attentive and respectful, listening to various officers or former soldiers as we shared our knowledge; their creative minds I'm sure were weaving a tale in their heads as we spoke, determining which way they would spin some morsel of information or detail into their epic thrillers or mysteries. But the experience was humbling and fulfilling all at once. Yet in spite of the fact that I was on panels of former pilots of gunships or department heads in some state bureau of investigations - I really felt like I contributed my part. That was one of the the best parts of the conference for me. Some folks go to these things just to learn from others on how to make it big - but I go to meet new people and discover better ways to make my writing more meaningful to me. If I can make it more meaningful to me, then I think it will be that much easier to make it meaningful to my reader...as long as I am never just satisfied with the status quo.
But now I am going to take this in a different direction, because something happened today that took me back to the last panel, on the last day. See - today, my father had a little scare and ended up in the hospital to have some tests done because of mysterious numbness in his face; sometimes an indicator for stroke! And the family all gathered around him in the room, and because he has had a scare or two before in the hospital ER, a heart attack, and a battle with cancer (whose ass he kicked, thank you very much, with a little bit of divine intervention), there were some emotional moments for him. And for a brief moment, my life with my father flashed before my eyes, and I realized I've taken some of my time with him for granted over the years. And that time with my father, the man who I thought was an expert in everything when I was a kid, took me back to that last panel session on the last day of the conference. The panel was about Self Publishing Advice, and I will never forget as my emotions got away from me for a second, when the moderator asked each of us, "How do you measure your success as a self published author?"
When I paused to answer the question once it was my turn, my memory flashed back to the first time my dad took his first official copy of my book from my hands, at a book signing on December 19th, 2014. He looked at me in front of a few other people gathered at the very bar where I used to bounce, and he said, "Son, I don't care if this is the only book you sell. As far as I'm concerned, you're a success in my book."
Yeah - I know; tears, right? I even have to sniff a little as I finish typing this. So while I tried to throw everyone off at the beginning of this post by giving credit where credit was due at the awesome writers conference in Nashville (Thanks, Clay and staff!), I just felt like putting these words down in reflection of the man in my life whose expertise has mattered more to me than I ever thought it would as a teen. My dad is a special expert in figuring out how to raise me and my two brothers, when he really didn't have an example to follow. And yet, he would probably give the credit to God, because that is just who dad is.
Who knows? Maybe one day, I can go back as a key note speaker to one of these conferences, after I have earned my stripes, and sold more than just a few books. And years from now, when I am once again surrounded by experts, I can tell them how, although a lot of people for some reason thought I might be an expert in telling a good story, there was one expert whose opinion mattered more than anyone else's. So even though I may one day make some best sellers list, or high sales rank on some website somewhere, that one expert's opinion was how I measured my success. And there is nothing anyone can ever do to take that away from me.
Thanks, Dad - you're the best.