Sunday, October 20, 2013

Take the Con 13

Triskaidekaphobia never made sense to me, and this year being the big one-three hasn't done a lot to turn me into a thirteen-o-phobe.  As extraordinarily stressful as it's been, it hasn't been a "bad" year per se.

Which brings us to the inspiration, invigoration, and writers' nation that is:  James River Writers' annual conference.  We began this weekend, yesterday morning, with Gbari Allen Garrett, a young poet whose power with words was amazing.  Carey Albertine gave us all the millennia of the history of writing in something like twenty minutes, and was winsome and enjoyable to meet, and an example of the support and enthusiasm that make the conference such a remarkably fine event.  Chip Kidd, whom I missed being able to meet by only a few minutes - darn it! I didn't get his book signed! - provided a truly entertaining and useful look at the craft and science of graphic design, specifically cover design and the stories of how some of his own developed.

Unfortunately, we ran a little long and, because I hated to miss a minute of the opening plenary session - and, because I register early for the conference and was, therefore, at the top of the reservations list for one-on-one sessions with agents and hence was second from the top on *that* schedule, which commenced before the plenary session was over ... OOPS, I missed my agent.  Gaaaaaaaahhh.

One of the many special and wonderful things about JRW, though, is that the Conference guests invited to participate are given the expectation that they should participate for the entire weekend, and should be available to attendees  the entire time.  And so, I hoped, at some point I might still be able to get in front of her.  I wait-listed myself for any one-on-one I could get.  And went off on my own.  Spent some time with Leila which, while having little direct relationship to writing and working, was more than worthwhile in its own right.  She is a friend I'm grateful to have.

And, at just the right moment, I got a call to come right over for a one-on-one with Victoria Skurnick.  She turned out to be gratifying company, quite apart from being generous enough to take on an orphan pitch, so I followed up today by asking if I might interview her here on this blog.  Stay tuned, because:  she said yes!  (Keep staying tuned, too, for Elizabeth Chadwick's interview, as she has the questions in her custody and I'm on her list, hopefully within the next couple of weeks.)  The glint in her eye you can see in the photo at the link above is completely true to life, and it was one of the unique pleasures of the Conference, spending time with her and a couple other people, listening to a little cello music as we all sat out a session.  Beautiful music, though we didn't get to hear enough of it.

Sharing a picture of Penelope the heartbreaker ... the Literary lunch on Saturday ... the turkey sandwiches and homemade chips today ... the wildly earnest boys and men ... the ideas that seem strange to a completely different perspective ... the charm of confluence and divergence ... the old faces, charming ... the new faces, almost nervous ... lots of turquoise and brown this year (including my own Saturday togs) ...

The thoughts stemming from "Revising Like a Rockstar" and "Finding the Right Feedback" - the questions asked and the posts you will see, yet to come.

The way, even beyond the end of the day yesterday, Deborah Grosvenor let me pitch her after all.  And requested a synopsis and first chapter.  (Victoria Skurnick, by the way, requested the full MSS.  As she put it, now that everything's electronic, why request a partial?  She can read or not read as much as she likes.)

A hallway chat with Paige Wheeler, the first agent who ever asked me for a partial - and who, now that I have revised, asked me to keep her in mind.

Though my "bite rate" on in-person pitches remains high (only one agent I've ever pitched didn't request at least a partial; and even she asked me to please query her when I complete Novel #2), I get a lot less squee-ish about that than I used to.  As we know, my offers-of-representation rate remains at zero, so excellent pitch experience is only so useful.

Still, there is more to get out of an event like this - the interview, the option to re-query Paige Wheeler - the time spent with Leila, with Kristi, with Kristy, with everyone.  Not least of which is the immense sense of gratitude that these women are my friends - that Kristi, our esteemed chair, has put on such a great Conference two years in a row.  I'm so impressed with her, sometimes it's more than a pleasure to be her friend, but a privilege.  She's that charming.

As may be clear, charm is not in short supply at the Conference, even though dear Miss Pen and Gossamer were not there.  And yet, as much as it does to enliven my creativity, to satiate me socially, two days of surprises and stimulation are exhausting.  Tomorrow, I'll be off work, and hopefully will relax and do nothing more than a bit of blogging and a bit more revising.

I hope to be able to send queries within two weeks.  The interview - probably sooner.  And the re-query as well, to Paige Wheeler.

So:  more busy times for 2013.  Will keep  you posted.  And here's hoping:  it won't be bad luck at all.

No comments: