"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

Monday, September 29, 2008

I Came, I Saw, I Conferred

I just returned from a weekend writer's conference in Irvine, and I am exhausted yet energized. Granted, I have only been to two "types" of conferences, but I cannot recommend this one enough. It's the Southern California Writer's Conference, and they usually do two a year. The one in San Diego is their biggest event, occurring over President's Day weekend in February. These are real, working conferences. The workshops engage you, challenge you to think and to write. The read & critiques are structured and well-run, so that as many people get feedback as possible. Everyone is insanely friendly - you can pull your chair up to any table and be welcomed. Seriously, I urge everyone to check them out - http://www.writersconference.com/. They're a fun group.

Just so you know - the other conference I've attended is the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop. Please don't misunderstand - I loved being there. It was a fun experience. But there wasn't much "work" in the workshops. For the most part, they consisted of classrooms, where we all faced the teacher and were taught. There were no read & critiques, no late night sessions revelling in everyone's words, and very few chances to meet editors, agents, or publishers. There were a lot of fun folks in the bar every night, though, and I took an extra day to visit the James Thurber museum in Columbus.

One of the workshop leaders that I particularly enjoyed at SCWC this year was Trai Cartwright. She was funny and energetic, plus had a ton of information to supply and challenge us. After her first class, Intuitive Structure, I wanted to call Karen Syed and say, "Wait! My manuscript isn't really ready - I don't have a theme!" Thankfully, I came to my senses before I could turn my cell phone back on, and realized that I do have a theme. I just never thought about it - it was intuitive.

As far as my interview, I admit to being a little depressed (okay, a lot depressed - is anyone reading this blog? Tap-tap-Is this thing on?), but I did come up with three questions to be asked and answered. Whether they are three good questions, relevant questions, interesting questions, IDK. It's done, it's over, and I can only hope I looked unscary for the video. At my age, looking great is a dream. My face is okay, except it's very round and my chin sometimes disappears when I talk, as well as my eyes when I smile. And don't get me started on my teeth - they're a little big and tend to leap out toward the camera when I talk, kind of like that thing in Alien. I know, picky, picky, picky. At least I'm being interviewed, because I'm being published.

(Insert happy dance here!)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Got any ideas?

I'm going to the Southern California Writer's Conference next weekend. The director, Michael Steven Gregory, would like to interview me while I'm at the conference, and asked me to come up with three questions I'd like to answer as a writer with a first novel being published.

Naturally, when he said "three questions" I immediately thought of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
"What is your name?"
"What is your quest?"
"What is the air speed velocity of the unladen sparrow?"

Readers and other writers probably don't want those questions answered - not by me.

I'm looking for suggestions. I should probably give people serious information, but I go for the funny every time. I don't want to appear too flippant, but I don't want to sound too precious.

What would three GOOD questions be?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Students! Pay Attention!

So Karen Syed mentioned Yahoo!Answers in her blog one day and I thought, hey, it's my dream job calling - sitting in a big comfy chair while I give everyone my opinion. I went to the Books & Authors section and started answering questions. This is what I found:

1. Most of the questions seem to revolve around the Twilight series and whether you, like, really really like it, um, and, like, how much do you love Edward, and aren't you just so bummed that Stephanie Meyer isn't going to finish Midnight Sun...? Yeah, in mostly those words, only not as well written.

2. Some of the questions are of the "I was supposed to read the book and do a report but could you just tell me the plot and help me answer the questions" variety. I want to answer these, but the reply box doesn't have a good, animated laugh.

3. The questions I like to answer have to do with: how do you publish a book, how do you cure writer's block, how do you find an agent, how do you think of a story to write about, etc. Some of the writers appear to need help on their spelling and grammar, but these are the questions I like to answer.

The only thing I don't understand about all these questions is, why do people ask them over and over if they've already been asked and answered? I mean, the questions on this website never stop, and there are at least 2-3 a day asking "how do I get published?" Can't anyone do a search?

Some of the answers are frightening. My favorite is always, "Find a list of publishers and send your whole manuscript to each one." Yeah, there's a good way to make friends and influence people.

I offer the same advice that's been pounded into me, via writer's conferences, author/editor/publisher websites, blogs, etc. "Write a good query letter. There are books and websites that show you how to do this. Then go to the library and check out Writer's Market. They list agents and publishers, along with the types of books they represent, and whether they're accepting new clients. Find agents and publishers who take your genre and send them the query letter, plus any materials they request in their submission guidelines. Do not send them anything else. If you get a lot of rejections, consider joining a writer's group or attending a writer's conference, where you can share your work with other writers and get their feedback.

I wish I could just store this answer and push a button.

What I really wish is that I could tell SurferDude what he needs to do when he asks if someone will write his essay on Catcher in the Rye that's due tomorrow. READ THE DAMN BOOK, JOCK-O!

Yahoo!Answers hates that language.

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