I just returned from a family outing in Seaside, OR., but before that, I attended "The Pacific Northwest Writer's Conference" here in Seattle. Well-organized, with articulate and inspiring speakers--Andre Dubus III, Lisa Gardner, Robert Dugoni and so many more--the event was a robust and full of knowledge, as well a reminder that conferences may seem outwardly clunky and full of postering, but ultimately, the ones that are well done make themselves invaluable.
I personally could have been more outgoing, more assertive about meeting people, but sometimes my shy-side takes over.
I did, however, essentially, jump an agent on a lunch break. Stunned or impressed with my gall, she told me to, "Send the whole book."
I learned how to "pitch" my story in one sentence or two sentences or an elevator's ride worth or maybe three pages worth. I learned that I pitch good, but that publishers today prefer happy stories, or things that let them escape i.e., topics about vampires, zombies, lesbian presidents, young adult books about magical realism or urban fantasy, whatever that is...
I learned that there are a lot of dreams out there and that it essentially comes down to who wants to make their dream happen, not who relegates their dreams to hope and happenstance, luck and magic.
And finally (not finally, but for our purposes in this section) I learned that you definitely DO need luck to prosper in publishing, but without talent and self-promotion, luck is no better than an expired lottery ticket.
...Later--in a day or so--I will share business statistics about the current state of the publishing industry. For now, I'd like to to offer something positive and, maybe even a tad inspiring....
Andre Dubus III was the opening keynote speaker. You might know that he wrote "The House of Sand and Fog," which was made into a film that in turn got nominated for an Oscar.
He was so witty and humble and so damn "Rockford Files" handsome--all cowboy, square-jawed and dark-haired--plus he was a great teacher and inspiration. Clearly, he loves our craft. Here are some of my favorite bits from his talk:
...“Gustave Flaubert was known to writhe on the floor in search of the perfect word to complete whatever it was he was writing. When’s the last time you writhed on the floor, other than during sex?”
“I believe when you write a story you are pregnant with that story the way a woman can be pregnant with a child. Similarly, she can eat right and not drink, and she can exercise and make all the correct choices but still miscarry.”
“There’s a certain stupidity writers can hardly do without--it’s called waiting. Not waiting for inspiration to write--because only amateurs do that-- but writing it as best you can and then waiting, waiting and sending out again, waiting, waiting and sending out again for the hundredth, second-hundredth time to see if someone likes it.”
“If you think you’re thinking when you’re writing, think again. Dreaming is closer to writing than thinking is to writing.”
“Imagine it, don’t make it up. There’s a huge difference.”
“This thing we do is mysterious because writers are the kind of people who want to enter the mystery of things.”
“You want to get yourself in the frame of mind where you accept any idea that comes your way.”