Apres le conference

February 16, 2009

There is no doubt that writer’s conferences are a lot of work for those brainless wonderful, selfless fools angels. I can’t begin to imagine the drugs planning it takes to organize a great event for a hundred some-odd writers. But, as always, Michael Steven Gregory (aka MSG) and Wes Albers pulled off another Southern California Writer’s Conference with their usual flair.

Conferences are exhausting for the speakers as well. You have any idea how hard it is to remain that charming for that long? I’m spent. And that doesn’t include the fact that I was suffering the after affects of the flu and managed to leave my voice in my other purse. A real croakfest for those wonderful writers who suffered through with me.

And that’s the gist of these conferences; the writers. The energy they bring to these events are their own legal drug. What other environment can you wallow in where no one’s eyes will glaze over when you talk about your latest WIP (work in progress)? Where else can agents, and editors let their hair hang down and show writers that we really aren’t evil harbingers of pessimism and rejection? We drink (oy), we make merry, we laugh, we listen, we advise, and we love every minute of it. Well, ok, I enjoy every minute of it, and I know my good buddy Claire Gerus does too. She’s one of those agents who gives her clients a cosmic hug along with her years of experience and savvy.

I love conferences because it’s my way of giving back to those who helped us in our early days. There is so much talent out there, and I never know what wonderful work I’m going to see. It was especially heartwarming to see authors getting signed by agents. Writers are islands by nature and while these conferences are expensive, you can’t put a price tag on the networking.

MSG, Wes, thanks again for the great time. To the authors who attended, you’re the best. You put yourself out there to be critiqued, and I hope we were of help to you. And for those who sat in my seminars, I just hope you could hear me.

When my mouth doesn’t get me into trouble

October 8, 2008

There are those lucky times when a speaking invite comes through that makes me blink five or six times while muttering, “Are you freaking kidding me?” One such invite came through a year ago from my dear friend and achingly talented Shannon Young – author of The Little Saguaro, and repped by the brilliant and renowned Andrea Brown. This woman is going places – Shannon, I mean. Andrea has already gone there and back. Many times. You want success and class, check out Andrea.

Anyhoo, on top of Shan’s success as a writer, she has her fingers firmly entrenched in the Oregon writers’ pies. One of those pies resulted in the first ever Wine and Words at the King Estate winery in Oregon. Shan will probably kill me because she’s so low key, but this is her family’s winery. When she told me about it, I thought, “oh, how nice, a little winery.”

HA. Ignorance. It catches me by the eyeballs every time. This is no little winery where Lucy and Ethel squish grapes with their toesies. This is a jewel that sits atop a grape-filled mountain and looks down on a little valley of emerald green forests and lesser wineries. Staying and eating at this place made me never want to come home, so can you imagine speaking among all this beauty?

The conference, coordinated by the effervescent Marlene Howard, was equally impressive because of the class of writers in attendance. Never have I seen such a collection of savvy writers. As I got up to speak, I grew concerned that they’d start picking their teeth. What could I possibly say that they didn’t already know? Turned out that I was able to share some insightful information, as did Andrea Brown – who is as delightful as a bouquet of fresh lavender (which the winery also grows – sight).

I know I say this every time I attend a conference, but this is special. The Oregon writers are a breed apart from any other group to whom I’ve spoken. There’s talk of a second Wine and Words for next year, and I can’t recommend this group enough because they know what they’re doing. Check out their site, check out their Colony House getaway where writers steal away to a fabulous house on the Oregon coast to write and learn.

And most of all, happy writing!

One conference comes to a sweet ending

September 28, 2008

I just returned from the Southern California Writer’s Conference in Irvine, and all I can say is what a fabulous weekend. Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers outdid themselves to ensure everyone was directed to the right conference room and had plenty of water.

This was my first time speaking is this particular conference, and I came away energized and exhausted. The attendees were articulate, educated, and passionate. Man, what’s not to love there?

Being surrounded by bright and talented minds offers its own kind of high. I must have heard twenty five different pitches while gulping down over-priced wine at the bar (whose service was atrocious. I mean, really, if I’m standing around waving money, don’t you think a server would get the idea?), and it was a treat to see the passion dripping with every syllable. That face time is something I miss when I’m sitting in my batcave reading queries all day long.

It’s also exhausting. Let’s face it, I’m not used to being that nice for so long. It’s a real challenge, and I had to come home and order the unreliable beagle to get some filing done just so I wouldn’t implode.

I can’t recommend conferences enough. This is the prime place to further a writer’s education. We writers are islands by the merits of our writing, and it’s easy to become immersed in our solitary self confinement. We need to come up for fresh air (or in my case, leave the batcave) and get some perspective.

The breakout sessions and one-on-one advanced submissions are scary, to be sure, and I respect the snot out of every single author who sat at my and other editor’s and agent’s table. It wasn’t easy, I’m sure, but they obtained some valuable crits along with learning how to take unbiased comments from a complete stranger. But it’s not all gloom and doom mixed with sweat and fear. We did so much laughing, I’m convinced I got an aerobic workout.

If you ever feel yourself getting stuck, I can’t recommend a writer’s conference enough. And if you see some demented woman sitting in the corner trying to shore up her smile with clothespins, it’s just me.

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