What's your favorite question for folks to ask you during conventions?
Easy, this one.
"How do you get started as a writer?"
To which they either mean...
1. How do you learn how to write?
2. How do you publish what you've written?
3. How do you find paying work as a writer?
4. My friend is too shy to ask you, so I'm asking on his or her behalf and don't really know what else to ask.
Regardless, it's a great question because it is so full of the naivity, hope, and innocence that we writers tend to lose as we get lost in the business of being published.
It's a question that full of readiness, even if the asker has no clue what he or she is really in for, or that by asking it that way, he or she has revealed just how little he or she actually knows about the industry -- BUT THAT'S OKAY! That's the point of the question.
And for that reason, I'll do my best to answer it each time I'm asked, regardless of which question the asker is really trying to get the answer to. I'll tell him about the rigors of bettering the craft and self-editing. I'll tell her about the constant need for building a better and more connected network of writers, artists, and publishers. I'll tell him about the traps that accompany neglecting submission guidelines. I'll tell her about the joy of seeing your first byline in, well, anything from a local newspaper to a book of short stories. And I'll tell every asker that I wish I could go back and recapture that moment of asking for myself.