At 5:00pm I finished the first day of my first writers conference. Let me put your mind at ease. I wasn’t handed a contract with an agent, no one offered a million dollars for my book, and there wasn’t one single request for an autograph. Phew, now that is out of the way, I can tell you what did happen and what I’ve learned so far.
There’s A Whole Lotta Writers Out There:
It was amazing to see a large ballroom filled with hopefuls just like me. It was comforting to know I wasn’t alone. But the other edge of that sword was the complete awareness of what I’m up against. There are a lot of Memoire writers and people pitching their screenplays as well, but knowing this group is only a fraction of the other writers out there put the same daunting question in my head: am I good enough?
After a few hours, a few panels, and a bit of conversation over chicken burritos, my nerves calmed down and I realized we are all in the same boat. At lunch, I found myself comforting another worried new writer about her upcoming pitches. As I reassured her the others in the group are just as worried, I started to wonder what the hell I was doing. Not that it was bad to encourage her, I was all for that part. But I did wonder why my scared ass wasn’t going to be sitting in front of an agent. What was wrong with me to pass up this great opportunity? Would I have hesitated if I could pay twenty-five bucks for ten uninterrupted minutes with Mikel? Hell no. (But that’s a different story.) So, I put on my adult pants and waited in a very long line to sign up with two cool agents for tomorrow. Let me give a little shout out thank you to Karen from Clackamas for reminding me about the power of being brave.
Some Writers Don’t Want To Learn:
This observation has been the most surprising. People pay big money to be at this conference and then they are throwing the opportunity down the toilet. (Hey, I signed up for the pitch sessions, so let’s not go there.) While I was sitting at a table of other writers, one man goes on and on about how the agent from his one on one session was crazy. She told him the book was too long. He responded by quoting other books which were of great length. She said the time span of the novel was too short for the word count. He countered the story was made in the details. She said it wouldn’t sell and he laughed out some excuse that she’s a “fill in” pitch agent like it was something less. He didn’t listen to a damn word she said.
I was amazed at his arrogance. While I wallow in self-doubt at times, this dude in a three-piece suit thinks he knows more than the person with experience in the business. It was more shocking when I heard him recount the story to other writers in the line to sign up for more pitch sessions. Even if he did think the agent was full of shit, do you really want to tell everyone what she thought of your work? It was in the same line of agents warning against putting your rejections in your blog.
Crazy People Are Everywhere:
The writing conference is not immune from crazy people. While you would think the admission charges would deter them, not all are kept away. Let me note, this isn’t about the people I’m surprised would show up. For example, the one who has his story written on line-ruled paper and didn’t look once into the publishing industry before he stepped through the door. His first question in one of the panels was “I’ve written part of the book, so what do I do now?” Don’t get me wrong, these people also baffle me at dropping this kind of coin for an “experience”, but they are not crazy.
I was fortunate enough to stand by a crazy lady in the sign up line. This line was long and slow-moving so we had adequate time to complete introductions and get a feel for how strange she really was. The large quantity of small braids falling out her scrunchy hair band weighed more than I thought her frail, pale frame could handle. Although the piercing in her nose like a cartoon drawn bull was jarring, it was not a factor in my labeling of her crazy. It was the randomness in which she spoke and asking every person around her to repeat what they said three times even when they weren’t speaking to her. Of course, since I stood next to her, I became the translator. With my inability to say no, I repeated the transcripts for the fourth time to make sure she knew what everyone was talking about.
But the true crazy came out when the line for sign-ups closed for lunch before we were helped. She flipped out. I mean, flipped out. Her yelling and waving of arms caught the attention of everyone in a ten foot radius. The poor coordinator tried to explain, but she was having none of it. Finally, the coordinator pulled out a pad and appeased the rest of us by giving numbers for when they opened back up. This caused a whole different hub-bub later, but it did work. I guess crazy lady deserves my thanks, too.
(On a side note, I was just interrupted from this post because someone was trying to get into my room. Even after their card didn’t flash the green light of unlocking, she jerked the handle back and forth like it was going to make a difference. I nicely showed her the number plates on the doors need to match the one scribbled on her key. Really, I was nice. No sarcasm.)
I think it’s clear my first time has been a success and that’s only with what I’ve gathered today. I still have two more days before it’s finished. This conference sure has stamina. I hope it finishes with a happy ending. Who doesn’t like them long? I hope the agents go easy on me because it’s my first time. (You are probably wondering how many more innuendos I can make about it. I can assure you Hubs is typing a “that’s what she said” after every one. Also, feel free to add more in the comment section.)
I know this was a good idea even if it doesn’t have all the things I listed in the first paragraph. I know because those things will come if I take what I learn here and apply it. The nuggets I’ve picked up are just the things to get me back on track and create a better product. Who knows? Maybe I will be one of those success stories one day. It may take a few more of these conference gatherings. Remember, practice makes perfect… “that’s what she said.”