Tuesday, May 18, 2010
An Oasis for Misfits
Quick! Name the best reason to go to a conference.
No, it's not so that you can slip that 1,000 page MS under the bathroom stall to your dream agent.
No, it's not so that you can go to the Harlequin party and dance for two seconds with the Nora Roberts just so you'll have the bragging rights.
No, it's not even so that maybe you can hang out in one of the bars until a punch-drunk-from-exhaustion editor says to heck with it, throws in the towel and decides to let it all hang out -- whereby you can wiggle your way in and maybe tuck your pages in her knapsack.
While all of those are highly entertaining to think about, it's not the reason that I would dearly love to be registered for the RWA conference, late of Nashville and now moved to Orlando.
It's the writers.
True, some writers let being away from the family and the friends go to their heads. They drink too much, they talk too loud, they let the proximity of known celebrity agents and editors tempt them into doing really awful things -- in general, this group of folks can and often do impersonate characters straight out of a Ray Stevens song. (Am I dating myself by alluding to Ray Stevens?)
But for the most part, we writers are just so thrilled to be there that we wouldn't dare act up.
There is something so powerful about being one in several hundred like-minded people. In our normal lives, we writers tend to be the oddball, misfit relative -- and I mean that in the nicest possible way, with no insult intended.
We are known for strange habits like mumbling to ourselves and writing plot points on our hands and walking away mid-conversation, shrieking, "Ah-ha! So that's why my heroine did it!"
Spouses don't understand the love/hate relationship we have with writing. They look at us as we bang our heads on the keyboard and shake their heads. "If it makes you that miserable," they'll say, "why do you do it?"
Yeah, well, ask them the same thing about their golf game, and they sort of get the picture.
Kith and kin don't always understand how our scribbling can take precedent over family reunions and even some holidays -- just try explaining NaNoWriMo to a non-writer. "But that's -- that's during Thanksgiving!" they'll sputter.
We can get dispirited. Discouraged. We think we're the only oddball misfit out there.
Then, once a year, the Lord sends down manna from heaven in the form of a literary conference -- pick your genre, there's sure to be a conference for it.
And suddenly all our eccentricities make sense.
We shove napkins at complete strangers as they scribble down the hook for their chapter three at the luncheon.
We completely, totally understand the need for a roomie's midnight run for chocolate. No questions asked, we get up and go with them.
We get as excited as pre-teens at a Jonas Brothers concert as we're standing in line for that big author to autograph our books -- or that hard-to-get agent pitch session.
We can talk in jargon-shorthand, and we don't have to explain the difference between an editor and an agent, and why you could fire the latter, but you can't the former.
For one brief shining weekend, we are the normal. The average. The run-of-the-mill. And if that doesn't charge you up for the rest of the year, then nothing will.