1. Gary Schmidt's Keynote – He speaks like he writes. Heartfelt, honest, and spare with emotional truths that strike like a punch in the gut. I wish you could've heard it too. It was kind of life-changing. For the next best thing, check out his appearance on the Yarn podcast.
2. Connecting In Person – Conferences are where the internet comes alive. All of those little avatars you chat with on Facebook and Twitter have actual human beings behind them. It's true! And you can meet them in real life! Amazing.
3. Cheryl Klein's Revision Session – If you've read Second Sight or listen to the Narrative Breakdown podcast, you know of Cheryl's insightfulness. This workshop was exactly what I needed as I was in the middle of revisions on my novel (and maybe, just maybe stumbling through said revisions like a bear drunk on fermented berries). She offered a concrete approach toward revision that I will carry with me forever. Her new book, The Magic Words comes out in September. Read it and become a better writer.
4. Funky Downtown Dining – The food was cheap and delicious. And then there was this.
5. DIY Writing Intensive – Friday was the intensive day at the conference, and there were many outstanding workshops to be had. Was I registered for any of them? No. Instead, I met classmate Bonnie Pipkin at Grounded for a self-made writing intensive (1.3K words, thank you very much) followed by drinks at the White Horse Tavern to soak up the literary mojo. And book deal celebration. Hers, not mine.
|Not the Whitehorse Tavern, but this a better photo than the one I took of my meal there.|
7. Double Rainbow – Not one, but two interview sessions with Rainbow Rowell! You guys, at one point I was close enough that I could have touched her hair! (To be clear, I didn't because that would be creepy and wrong.) These were both excellent Q&A sessions. Rainbow comes across like you think she would if you've read her books: intelligent, funny, charming, and slyly subversive. If you haven't read her work, do yourself a favor and rectify that mistake. Read her for the dialogue, the graceful character descriptions, and read her for the stories themselves. Not quite like being there in person, but this interview on the aforementioned Narrative Breakdown is worth a listen.
My thanks to Carrie Firestone for doing her part to lift me up. We share an agent, and Carrie took me under her wing to talk through some of the expectations invloved with the whirlwind-publishing-machine. Her book, The Loose Ends List, drops on June 7th. Look for it; it sounds great.
9. The Publisher's Panel – We often hear that houses have a voice, and this panel did a nice job of embodying that idea. It was fascinating to listen to the publishers talk about the strengths and motivations of their lists. There were two takeaways of note for me. One, the children's arms of the large publishing houses are now given a lot more respect as the financial models point to stability within our market. That opens a lot of opportunities, and clears some of the clouds away from the doom-and-gloom prognostications we hear so often.
The second, a point made by moderator Ruben Pfeffer was a huge relief to my anxious artist brain. He assured us that if a manuscript makes it to an acquisition meeting but gets turned down, it's not because the writing was flawed, it's because the business case for that particular book couldn't be made at the time.
Why is this relief? Well, I can't control business decisions, but I can control the quality of my writing, so this lets me off the hook as an artist. Right? Now, I'm far from an acquisition meeting, but I have my hopes, and I know from my colleagues experiences that not every book gets picked up even when it makes it that far. I'm sure if/when that day comes it will hurt like hell, but at least now I know it won't be because I'm a bad writer. I'm just bad business!
10. Autographs – Maybe I'm a fanboy at heart, but I love the autograph sessions. Sure, the lines are long, but the conversations in those lines can be fun. And you get to have your favorite authors sign books to YOU. Or someone you love. Or maybe a frenemy. You do you. All I know is that I am super excited to have autograph copies of The Game of Love and Death, Last Stop on Market Place, and Whatever-Book-I-Bought-So-William-Joyce-Could-Sign-It-Alas-I-Had-To-Leave-But-Linda-Camacho-Is-Holding-It-For-Me-Right-Linda?