Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Writer's Maze: What Attending a Writer's Conference is Really Like



After months of planning and tweeting with your writer friends for the BIG EVENT to come, it does. You print your boarding pass at home and head to the airport with your itinerary in hand. You tag your luggage and weigh it in, praying you’re under the fifty pound weight limit. It’s not, of course, because you’ve taken four pairs of extra shoes (in case you feel like wearing them, but probably won't) and books you want to have signed. The agent behind the ticket counter tells you to take out two pounds and she’ll let the fifty-two pounds slide, so you shove more weight into your already heavy carry-on and slug it over your shoulder and kiss your wonderful spouse goodbye heading toward the security check point.



“Bye, love you too. Yes, I’ll call or text and let you know I made it. Okay, bye-bye.” You say and forget the conversation the second you turn around, because the friends you’re meeting at the conference are texting and now you’re all jittery again with the extreme high of joining other people who suffer from the same psychosis you do, and that makes you feel less narcissistic. 

Once you’ve schlepped two or three miles to your gate, you now have a permanent groove in your shoulder from your bag that is too heavy and your realize you need coffee because it’s four a.m. and it just hit you that it’s still dark outside and you shouldn’t be awake. Naturally, you passed Starbucks ten gates ago.



After trudging back and forth to get something that tastes more like curdled motor oil, you march back to your gate and realize flying to Los Angeles at five o’clock in the morning isn’t ideal, because it is also the destination of families with small children heading that magical place where dreams come true and every child that will be sitting next to you in the cabin knows they’ll be seeing their favorite characters soon. So you make sure you buy the headphones once on the plane in hopes of drowning out their hyper squeals of joy.



During the flight, you’re semi-comfortably enjoying a movie, the earphones are working pretty well until the small TV in the seat in front of you stops working. Not all the TV’s, just the ones in the section you’re sitting in. You try reading, but it’s too loud. You try listening to music with the headset you purchased. The selection of stations isn’t great so you settle on spa music, knowing every time you get a massage after this, the music will be tainted. But you need to relax now. You’re heading to a four day workshop intensive event with some of the biggest names in the literary industry, you can’t start twitching yet. 

Ah, but you survive. You arrive at LAX and it’s under construction.  An hour later you find your way to the baggage claim area, to discover your luggage did not. It’s still across the country, doing who knows what with other bags that’ve lost their way. Your airline assures you they’ll send it to your hotel.
Your friends are coming in on another airline, which means they’re miles away and have to take a shuttle to reach you from the other side of the airport. 



Finally, you’re all together and you’ve arrived at your hotel (by way of crowded shared van). Not the hotel the conference is held in, you thought you’d be smart and save some money. You’re hotel isn’t fancy but that’s okay, you won’t be spending much time there anyway. It’s not until you take a practice run in the taxi, that seven miles roundtrip everyday is going to add fifty collars a day to your tab. Egh, oh well, it’s still cheaper and there’s three of you splitting the cost. Cool. Let the party begin.

Lindsay Cummings - Cherie Stewart - Candie Campbell


You set your alarm and get to the hotel for the conference registration and realize you’re not alone. Thirteen hundred other people are there to learn with you. Awesome. But how will you ever meet everyone? How will you ever find that illusive agent you’ve been looking forward to meeting? Those questions plague you as you’re herded into an enormous ballroom for the very first keynote speech. 

Candie Campbell - Lindsay Cummings - Cherie Stewart



That’s when you know, it doesn’t matter if you meet anyone while you’re here, you feel like you’re part of some elite family just being in the same room with people like Judy Blume, Richard Peck, Libba Bray, Bruce Coville, and Laurie Halse Anderson, just to name a few.

Lindsay Cummings - Henry Winkler - Stephanie Funk - Candie Campbell


For the next eight hours you scribble notes in your journal, you converse with your friends about the great information and inspiration and then it happens … you meet an agent. It’s okay, you have your pitch ready, you’ve been reading their blog for months, you know their tastes and you think you’re right for their list and you want to tell them, “Here I am, I came here to meet you. I have this great project that you’ll be thrilled to see.” But what you really say is … “Hi.” That’s it. All the things that sounded so cool in your head three thousand miles ago, are gone. Your vocabulary forgot to accompany you to the conversation. The agent is kind as they look at you like, “Yes?” And you say, “I read your blog.”

Candie Campbell


Eventually you get your awkward pitch out and you think next time, you’ll be cool, next time you’ll say something prophetic and poignant. You don’t of course, because the opportunity is gone. The rest of the conference is spent kicking yourself for blowing it and trying to keep your brain from exploding due to overload of massive amounts of brilliant advice. 

But all is not lost, even though you’ve waited to meet that agent to pitch your manuscript to, there’s always the query letter. You have to write one anyone, even if they would’ve liked your pitch. You survive the parties, the workshops, the keynote speeches, cab drivers, the eight dollar bottles of water and you get back to the airport to go home, feeling both bedraggled and refreshed. Yes, at the same time. You can’t decide which is the more dominate emotion either. 

Cherie Stewart - Lindsay Cummings - Candie Campbell

You do know one thing, you can’t wait to be home in your own bed with your spouse you’ve barely remembered to call for five days and just as you’re about to land … the Captain announces there is a storm and the plane is in a holding pattern waiting. The next announcement says the plane is low on fuel and has to refuel before resuming its storm waiting holding pattern. But, at the last minute before landing in another state, the Captain announces he’s been given clearance and will be landing with what little fuel is left despite the lighting flashing outside your window. Cool.

But, your journey’s not over. You’re next flight has been delayed. You find your gate, on the other side of the airport with your ridiculous carry-on (which is even heavier now because you bought more books), and you make some new friends crammed on every available floor space. More bad news, your plane’s not leaving until the next morning. You have eight hours, unless … you do it. You call your spouse, get them out of bed, and ask them to drive two hours (one way) to come get you and your new friends.

Mr. Candie Campbell - my love and best friend


Thank goodness, at least you managed to find someone who loves you and wants to spend the rest of their life with you. When you eventually get home and lay down, you think … someday, maybe I’ll find an agent who loves me as much.

7 comments:

  1. PS I haven't forgotten about August's give away. Anyone have any special requests they'd like to see?

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  2. Hahaha omgsh, love this post. So true!!

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  3. Oh gosh, this is the best post. So much information, so many people...but it was totally worth it! Everyone should go to a writers conference!

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  4. LOL! Great post! I see Lindsay Cummings in lots of your photos. She is my agency sister! Isn't she awesome?

    Also, I’m a new follower— wonderful blog! Stop by my blog and follow me too? :) http://rachelbrookswrites.blogspot.com/

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  5. Hi Rachel! Thanks for the follow and the compliments and YES, Lindsay Cummings is an awesome little firecracker! Love her!

    Heading to your blog now! :-)

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