"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, February 24, 2012

Conference thoughts, and where my mind travels

To start with, last weekend's San Diego Southern California Writers Conference was my best ever, and I really thought I'd already had my best ever, so that's upping the bar a lot. The workshops were fantastic. I don't know that I sat through any clunkers.

I kicked off the conference with Charmaine Hammond's workshop on Your Book as a Business. I couldn't take notes fast enough. She's a fun, engaging speaker, and had so many great ideas for me to try out.

Then I sat in on Lynn Price's workshop about Writing Memoirs - Making Them Care. But wait, you say, I didn't know you were writing a memoir. I'm not. I think I've had a ho-hum life. But I went for two reasons: 1) I have friends who are writing memoirs and ask me for advice all the time; and 2) no matter what I'm writing, I want to make them care. I learned a lot.

I pitched a new book idea at Marla Miller & Jennifer Silva Redmond's Pitch Witches workshop that was incredibly well received (and I'll post more about that on another day). It's a great way to spend 90 minutes - you get one editor and one publisher in a room and tell them what your book is about. They tell you whether you've described it too much, not enough, or whether indeed there is a marketable book in there at all.

There were workshops about why some books get published and some don't. There was another workshop about authors making alliances with other creative types. I carried something away from all of them.

At night, I was in the bar with my friends, Tameri Etherton, Jennifer Carlevatti Aderhold, and a revolving door of other conferees, workshop leaders, and the directors, Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers. I had two glasses of wine each evening and yet we still managed to close the bar each night. Tameri and I, along with our friend, Linda Ochocki, went on a field trip. I'm letting Tameri talk about that one on her blog - some day. Every night, I wasn't in bed before 2:30, and every morning I was up by 7:30. I was proud of being able to get my contacts in each day.

One speaker was special to me - Michele Scott. She has worked her tail off in this industry, been traditionally published, small press published and self-published, and is finally beginning to reap her well-deserved rewards. On Sunday, she found out her thriller, Daddy's Home (written as A.K. Alexander), was #8 on the Wall Street Journal's best seller list for Fiction, E-books. It's the only self-published book on the list. This. Is. Big.

Of course, I asked how she did it, and she laughed. "I have no idea!"

This is where the other part of my brain kicked in, and an image appeared. I used to have a beautiful Persian cat who was Satan in black fur. She didn't pull any punches if things were not to her liking. Sometimes I needed to give her a bath, which usually ended up in a bloodbath for me, until I learned a little cat-bather's secret: you wrap their paws with masking tape. If you wrap the tape around their toes, they can't flex them to get their nails out. Masking tape doesn't stick to the fur so it's not harmful.

I would tape her toes on all four feet and pinch the extra tape in front, so she looked like she was wearing clown shoes. Then I'd put her in the tub and watch her flop and flail about before I turned on the warm water. It was funny, and it was retribution for all those times she shredded my hands.

The image of her flopping about in the tub came back to me while Michele and I were talking. I had been taking notes and making plans to try all of these great ways to sell my books, and I will try them out. I've listened to all kinds of authors talk about That One Great Thing that started their books selling. But Michele is the most honest author I know.

"A lot of it is just luck," she told me. "You throw it all out there and see what sticks."

We like to think there's a magic formula. For those who have been successful, they might think their path would work for everyone. At the end of the day, we're all just flailing about like cats in the tub. Some of us give up. Some of us flail harder. And some of us submit to the bath and plan our revenge.

1 comment:

Tameri Etherton said...

Great rap up, Gayle! This truly was one of the best I've been to. My brain is still on overload from all the awesome information I received and as soon as I have a minute, I'm going to review my notes and put them to good use.

I'm so excited for Michelle! She's such a mellow lady and great writer.

I'm working on that field trip post, I'll let you know when it will be up on the blog. Until then, I'll flail around a bit before submitting to the bath and plotting my revenge. I already know what character I'm going to kill off first in my next novel. Mwuahahahaha!

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