Tag, I’m It!

Metal "tag" sculpture

Photo via Google Image Search

I have been tagged in my first blog tour post. This is where a blogger comes up with a set of questions, answers them, and then asks three more people to answer the same questions.

I did one of these via email fifteen years ago. It was longer (20 questions) and both more trivial and more personal at the same time (as the Internet always is). Since then, these same “question posts” have run rampant on that bastion of personal triviality called Facebook.

So normally I would ignore such a thing. But this one is about “writing and the writing life,” which is a little less personal and a lot less trivial. My friend and colleague Natalie Trust tagged me, so I’m answering the same four questions that she answered on her blog.

Check out the questions and my answers—and find out which three writers I tagged—at DavidOzab.com!

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!

My KBVM Interview

Yesterday, I appeared on Catholic Broadcasting Northwest’s “In Person” with Dina Marie Hale. The broadcast aired on 88.3 KBVM FM in Portland, 100.5 KMME FM in Eugene, and online at kbvm.com. In case you missed it—or want to hear it again— select the link below to listen:

KBVM Interview (52.9 MB mp3)

Patience, Part II

Back in April I wrote about my difficulties with patience, and how I was determined to wait a year before I got involved in church. I also wrote about a conversion story I hoped to get published. I submitted it at the end of February, wrote a followup email a month later, and then a second followup in May.

I heard nothing. Not a “no thank you,” not a “we’ll get back to you.” Nothing.

I gave up. Like I said, patience is hard for me. So is taking my own advice.

Today, I finally heard back:

Dear David Ozab,

First, my most sincere apologies for the delayed response! For some reason your emails were being automatically sorted into an incorrect folder and were not seen (the problem has been fixed now). I’m terribly sorry for the delay and confusion.

Thank you so much for sharing your sincere and heartwarming story with us!

If you’re still interested, we would be delighted to share your experience with our readers.

I should have trusted my instincts. I knew it was a good piece—I’d gotten great responses from several people, all of whom loved it—and yet I hadn’t heard anything for almost five months. I never stopped for a moment and thought maybe it was just a foul up. No, I jumped to the worst conclusion and said some pretty nasty things (in casual conversation only, not in print or online) about the publication in question.

For that I offer my most sincere apologies.

And next time, I’ll try to take my own advice.