December 15, 2012

Writers Are An Eclectic Bunch

Go to any writers conference and you will see a true mix of humanity: from the high brow literary professor or businessman in a suit who has dreams of being the next best selling author; to a young adult male dressed up as Star Trek's Spock, who believes it is a clever gimmick to pitch his science fiction novel to every agent with an introduction of, "Live long and prosper". And of course, he too, has dreams of being the next best selling author.

Words Can Change You

I remember the first writers conference I went to. I didn't have any idea of what to expect. I had on my blue interview suit and pantyhose (which I frickin hate), packed my satchel with a leather binder and gold pen and went off with my little hopes and dreams.  

The conference was broken down into about four sessions where you went to a classroom in the building to learn about writing, marketing, agents, publishers. Topics like how to write your first novel, how to get the attention of an agent, the do's and don't of writing, etc. (I don't remember what they were actually called.)

I barely remember any of it. (I mean, I loved it and I learned a lot but I don't remember exactly what I learned that day.) But if you know me or you have been reading my blog, you know I DO notice the crazy stuff that happens or the strange people which may meander on by.

During one of the breaks, I went to the bookstore in the building and bought one of the book's written by a presenter at the conference. I was now in line for the author's signature. (The funny thing is, I had no idea who this presenter/author was but he was speaking at the conference so I thought, he had to be someone, right? Five years later and I don't think I opened the book, ever. I think it was a book on Vietnam or something.)

So I was in line and I kept hearing this thumpety thump thump behind me. I turn around and look down and this man is thumping his big white florescent tennis shoe against the floor, obviously impatient about the long line. I look up and smile, more of a gesture of please stop rather than a greeting, but I must have gotten the look wrong because it elicited a huge conversation, and to this day, I have no idea what the point of it was. The man behind me held up his self-published book with a black Labrador on the cover and said, "Do you want to buy a book about my dog." I was like oh man and being the nice person I am, I got sucked into a conversation which made no sense.

A few years ago, I went to another writers conference. I finally decided I was going to take a chance, put myself out there, and let an agent see the intro to Finding Hope. The problem is my beginning to Finding Hope was and still is the hardest part to get right. And even a non-writer knows, if the reader isn't interested in the first few pages, it's unlikely to be read. So I geared myself up.

The New York agent, we'll call him Mr. X, which was going to be holding the pitch sessions was someone I had been reading about for the past year in the writers magazines. (A pitch session is where you go in to a room where an agent is sitting usually at a table and you have about fifteen minutes to "pitch" your story. They read a few pages and tell you briefly, what they think.) My husband and I drove through the night so I could be at the conference the next morning. At 2:00 a.m. I was delivering my rehearsed lines of what my story was about to my sleep deprived driving husband.

At the conference the next day, I attended a few sessions about writing (like the other conference) and I went to the agent's room at the scheduled time I was given. I remember sitting outside of the room in a chair ready to hyperventilate. So when it's my turn I go into the room with the agent and I light up like a Christmas tree, I'm so excited. Mr. X was the star of the agent world to me. He was laid back, easy-going, professional, personable, a true book lover. And  . . . I looked like an obsessed fan.

I started rattling off about how great he is and everything I knew about him. (I knew a lot just because I have a great memory when it came to past articles about him.) He said, "You're not a stalker are you?"  Oh crap, I came back to reality, I just screwed up. I redeemed myself by saying something he laughed about but it was not the experience I had planned. (I think a crazed fan possessed my body like Annie Wilkes from the movie Misery, but surely that person who acted that way was not me.) 

He read my first few pages and he said, "You have the concept but it's not ready to be published yet." Somewhat positive, right? It left me paralyzed. Fear of failure, fear of success, or maybe still blown over that I met The God of Agents. (Okay, I have to stop that. I am not a stalker. I am not a stalker. :o)

What is this all for? What is the point? (I think I've lost it somewhere.) Oh yes, if you want to be a writer, go for it. I attend a writers group once a month and the teacher said that everything really is a story about people and we read fiction to find someone to relate to. It is true. We try to understand people and the world when we open a book; whether it is to learn something, feel better, or just to be entertained. It's all about understanding life and somehow, our place in it.

Or, if you don't think you are good enough to be a writer, or have the background I should say, think again. Here is an appropriate quote from one of my stories, The Writers Resort, when the main character (who believes she has it all together) attends the resort with other hopeful writers and tells the owner the residents are not exactly how she thought they would be.

"I just don't think these are the type of people I expected here. I thought real writers were professional and half-way normal. All I see here are people with problems."

"Imagine that, people writing because they have a problem with life," Mary Alice laughed. "Honey, you don't know the first thing about writers. Creativity and crazy go hand-in-hand. Welcome to the club."

So if you truly want to be a writer, I believe, you need a little bit of craziness in you. Because most writers don't exactly understand the world, but they want to. And they want to take you along with them.

After the last writers conference, I learned it takes all kinds of people to be writers. Some are very professional and seem to have it all together and others, are two steps away from crazy. And I guess I fit right in there due to my "I'm your biggest fan" episode with Mr. X, The God of Agents.  I walked away that day with my blue suit, leather binder, gold pen and God forsaken pantyhose knowing a writer doesn't have to be anyone but who they are because in their stories, they can only write about what is meaningful to them.

I also walked away with a book I'll never read about Vietnam but the good news is; I didn't walk away with a book about a guy's dog.

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