Three Days at a Writing Conference

WORDS

I’m back today from the 2013 Faith and Culture Writers Conference. The weekend passed in a blur, going something like this.

Friday: Show up, drink coffee, and be thoroughly overwhelmed. Three hours race by. Go back to the hotel room after a few hours and try to sleep. Don’t sleep . . . still don’t sleep . . . sleep.

Saturday: Breakfast, coffee, socialize, get a book signed, more coffee, seminars, frantic notetaking, more socializing, lunch, still more coffee (coffee runs out!) more seminars, time to pitch, coffee is back (yay!), even more coffee, heart starts racing (aaah!), appointment delayed fifteen minutes . . .

Calm down.

Breathe.

Pray the Rosary and center myself.

Meet agent. Chat about the origins of our last names, pitch the book, he loves both the title and the concept and asks to see the proposal and manuscript, float out of the room on a cloud, more seminars, more frantic notetaking, conference wrapup, win a prize, more socializing, dinner out with friends, return to the hotel, collapse on the bed exhausted, think about what a great experience it was, and wish it wasn’t over already. Sleep.

Sunday: Wake up and thank God it is over because there is no way I have any energy left over for another day. Relax in the room for a bit, get breakfast, pack, and stop off for 10 a.m. Mass on the way home.

By the way, The Grotto is beautiful. I’m going back when I have the time to enjoy it.

Go home and hug Julia and Anna. Go out for frozen yogurt that evening to celebrate a successful weekend. Return home to my own bed and get a good night’s rest.

Today: Get Anna ready for school, return the rental car, do laundry.

Some things never change.

Aside

Dad 2.0 Summit 2013 in Review

Dad 2.0 Summit Logo

On Monday, Adam Gertsacov of DADaPalooza posted his review of the Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston (crossposted on NYC Dads Group) and it’s a great rundown for those of us who couldn’t make to trip to Texas this year:

In case you don’t know, Dad 2.0 is an annual conference that is an open conversation between dads and brands.  Some of the best and most influential Dad bloggers descended on Houston to talk about their work, meet with brands, talk about the changing perception of Fatherhood.)  The conference is not a “Best practice for being a dad” conference. (although tips were exchanged)  It was about being a better dad blogger, and being more vulnerable.

One of the founders, Doug French, said in the opening remarks was that this was where the Expectations get a little lofty.  I think the conference really did a great job of connecting and inspiring all of its participants.  I had a few moments that I thought were great, and I’d like to share them.

He provides a great rundown of what has become the national stay-at-home dad conference. It’s one I hope to attend in person someday.

If only it were a little closer. From what I’ve found online the last three Dad 2.0 Summits were in New Orleans, Austin, and Houston. In my opinion, it’s time for them to visit a different part of the country.

How about the Pacific Northwest? Yes, it’s a little rainy this time of year, but it’s still a beautiful part of the country. If you’re looking for a big city like New Orleans or Houston, you could put it in Seattle. Rather do something smaller? How about Portland? Want the college town atmosphere of Austin? How about Eugene?

Is that asking too much? Probably. Time to start saving up on airfare, I guess.

Five Highlights of a Writers’ Conference

Willamette Writers Conference 2012 Program Cover

I am back from my self-imposed one-week blog hiatus. And I am back from the 2012 Willamette Writers Conference. It was an amazing weekend; here are some highlights:

1) I successfully pitched my manuscript. This is the reason why a writer with a completed project needs to go to a writers’ conference. It’s the difference between being across a table from an agent or editor and getting lost among the thousands in the slush pile. Which would you pick if you had the choice?

I did my research and picked five agents and one editor who, based on their catalog description, website, and other clients , seemed like a good fit for my manuscript. I crafted a pitch, practiced it, internalized it, and walked in prepared. The result? Five positive responses and only one negative. And I found out later that the one negative came from an agent who was no longer looking for memoir. Changes happen between the time you register for and attend a conference. You just have to take it as a learning experience and keep going.

2) I networked with a lot of talented writers. This is the reason any writer should go to a conference; completed project or not. Writing is a lonely job, and we all need the camaraderie of colleagues. I made a lot of great connections and may have stumbled into the makings of new writers’ group. More to come (I hope).

3) I spent the hottest weekend of the summer in air conditioning. From the hotel I was staying in to the rental car to the hotel hosting the conference and back again: except for the walks across parking lots, I was in A.C. while the whole Willamette Valley sweated through 100° high last Saturday.

4) I talked about Anna . . . a lot. Since the book is about her it was a natural segue, and talking about her helped me miss her a little less.

5) I got a good boost going into the next phase of my writing career. Lots of great information and advice from the excellent workshops and a great way to organize them thanks to Christina Katz’s The Writer’s Workout (I now own a signed copy), which includes a “Twenty-five Actions in Twenty-four Hours” worksheet. I filled it out on Monday—choosing a large variety of straightforward  tasks based on my workshop notes—and checked off the first three Tuesday. My goal is to get them all done by the end of the month and then create a new list for September building upon what I’ve accomplished.

Connections, contacts, and a career-in-progress. All steps forward.

I am an Author

“Are you an author?” That’s the question the woman behind the counter asked me as she handed me a printed copy of my manuscript.

After a moment’s hesitation, I answered “Yes.”

Holding that box in my hands, feeling the weight of the 378 pages holding almost 90,000 words that I had spent the last three years crafting through revision after revision, I felt like an author. Call me aspiring or emerging, if you prefer—I don’t care about modifiers—I am an author.

It’s been three-and-a-half years since I got the crazy idea to write this book. An idea so crazy that it’s a good thing it came to me at 3 a.m. otherwise I might have pushed it right out of my head:

 As I lay awake, my thoughts running on a mental treadmill, I heard Anna’s voice in my head saying her favorite sentence these last few months:

“My name is Anna.”

There were variations, like “Hi, my name is Anna,” or “My name is Anna, what’s your name?” but the idea was always the same. She was starting to express herself.

If only someone besides me, Julia, or her therapists could understand her . . . (and) that’s when it hit me: this story of hers, of ours, was a story that needed to be told, and I was the one who would tell it.

“So am I crazy?”

It was six-thirty. Julia was awake and as we sat together on the couch in our living room I had just told her my idea. I expected her to answer “yes,” and bring me back to reality.

“I don’t think so.”

“I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Julia smiled. “Maybe that’s a good thing.”

I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, and she saw the puzzled look on my face.

“What I meant was that this is Anna’s story. Who better to tell it than you.”

It was a long path from that morning until today; I couldn’t have completed it without Julia’s support. And now, three-and-a half years later, I have a printed manuscript and consults scheduled with four agents and one editor next weekend. All my spare time is going into preparation, which is why this blog has been a bit sparse lately and should be pretty quiet this week as well.

I hope to return with good news, and backlog of topics to post about. Until then, wish me luck!