Saturday, April 21, 2012

No Secrets, No Lies, Just Books

I write this to you from the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, on my third day out of four. Yesterday was my blog day, if I was going to keep to every-other-day blogging (which only seems to happen for about a week before I have to give it up) but OMIGOD, yesterday was busy. I was rarin' all day long with only a short break before dinnertime to lie on someone's bed and decompress and chitchat. I even quoted Heathers. Everyone laughed.

It is such a pleasure to be here. I'm very tired, wore out like the elbow of an old sweater, because I can't sleep and the elevation affects everything and I had a Severe Digestive Event for hours and hours on my first night here, but it is such a pleasure to be here. I had thought that I hated networking, but what I hadn't realized is that when networking involves just chatting with people about one of the things you love most in the world, it's not work. It's not the atrocious effort involved in the sole networking event I'd previously been to, a government contracting thing about a million years ago. Those people and I didn't have anything in common other than our jobs, and my job was most decidedly not the thing that interested me about my life. The writers here, and the presenters as well, are so intelligent, and so experienced, and so enthusiastic. It's kind of like camp - only it's a camp jammed with new best friends.

I'll be honest and say that the actual workshops and lectures I've been to have been sort of a wash. Some of them have contained useful information, and perhaps information that I couldn't have gotten any other way, but some of them have been inapplicable to what I'm up to with my work and some of them just haven't been very good. Of course, a couple of them have been truly splendid, insightful and absurdly helpful. Much more enjoyable, and involving much more of a sea change to the good, has been sitting around and hanging out, talking and laughing and learning and exchanging.

The most useful thing by far has been learning that editors and agents are human beings. That they are not scary ring-wraith overlords, permanently grumpy and negative and with hopelessly high standards. Indeed, they seem to want to buy work, and very much to want to do their jobs and get books published, and even, to my great surprise, to want to work with writers. They are, so far, super friendly and endlessly intelligent and knowledgeable. They just seem to know exactly, precisely what they want, what works for them and their press or their client list, and there are so. Many. Writers. and they can't possibly publish them all.

It might have been naive of me not to understand this, but I always saw the whole editorial/agenting/publishing complex a little bit like Hollywood, with personal connections and secrets and sleepings-with and cruelty well beyond the reach of mortal, ordinary people like me, and totally un-conceived by the media and the audience who benefit from their mysterious workings. They could be putting on a big show for us, but I am not seeing it this way here. It's just work, like any other industry. But there happens to be an awful lot of shit that gets in the way between the publishing complex and writers, even good writers. And I don't think any of it can be attributed as blame to any party.

I have a lot of good stories, but I'm not sure how much I can say or should say. Certainly it seems unwise to talk a lot while I'm still here, before I've had the chance to process it all. But I'll be decompressing the information I've attained here for a while, and a lot of that will occur right here on this very blog. Lucky you.

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