I think I picked a perfect year to attend my first conference. I mean, that should be obvious, what with Joyce Carol Oates as the keynote speaker and all...but that was only the beginning of a wonderful weekend.
I'm not going to go into much detail, because I have a LOT of work to do now. Here are the highlights:
Joyce Carol Oates gave a phenomenal keynote speech on the topic of writers and rejection. Rejection of all kinds, not just professional.
Then she signed books, and was so gracious as to not only sign my book, but also a book for my sister. And she told me I was "very beautifully dressed" (that's a direct quote, folks). AND she let me take a picture with her:
Sorry it's a tad blurry--she prefers not to take pictures with flash.
So, that was Friday night, in all its awesomeness. After the keynote dinner, my conference partner Ashlee and I returned to our room to read (yes, we ARE wild when left to our own devices) and work on my pitch for the next day. I was pacing the room, muttering to myself and practicing in front of the mirror, long after Ashlee fell asleep...and I had the feeling that there were many others in the hotel doing the exact same thing.
I went to some great classes on Saturday, including a session with three editors who read attendees' first two pages and gave their comments on them.
And if you want to induce a heart attack, a great way is to have an editor reading your work to a room full of people. I honestly started looking around the room, wondering if they had any of those portable defibrillators.
I got some wonderful constructive criticism from the editors, some nice compliments, and each of them said they'd read further if they had the chance. When someone asked which manuscript they'd take along to read on an hour's train ride, two of them chose mine! Unfortunately, none of them acquire in my genre....
But I still had my pitch to make.
I'm going to do my usual close-mouthed thing here, and not tell you just who the editor is, or even what house he or she works for.* Just rest assured that he or she's incredibly nice...
...and I'm not just saying that because he or she requested my novel. That's right.
I performed my pitch flawlessly, so well, in fact, that he or she finished it for me (he or she said the last word for me, a character's name, as his or her eyes lit up), which showed he or she was paying attention. Then I answered a few of his or her questions, and we talked about how I came to be a writer.
Now, I know that at these events, some editors and agents request everything, simply because it's very difficult to reject a writer to her face. I don't care, though--I'm going to take this chance for what it is--an incredible opportunity.
So now I must get to work, because this novel has to really shine before I send it out. Bring on the OCD and rampant perfectionism.
*See the vagueness? You don't even get to know what sex he or she is. Nah-nah-nah!
If you don't feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then possibly what you are doing isn't very vital. If you don't feel like you are writing somewhat over your head, why do it? If you don't have some doubt of your authority to tell this story, then you are not trying to tell enough. --John Irving