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.


Piedmont Writer said...

I know who Ray Stevens is and I always loved him.

I so wish I could go to a conference. However, I'd want all my bloggy friends to go with me so I wouldn't be lonely and we could hang out and order brownies from room service. (I don't drink so it wouldn't be that kind of fun) but it would be more fun than streaking thorugh downtown.

VR Barkowski said...

I agree, it's inspiring to be surrounded by other authors! So disappointed I can't attend Nationals this year. Planned to go, but the move to Orlando put it out of my range. Maybe next year...

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Thanks for the reminder! I'm going to the SCBWI conference in LA this summer and I'm so excited about the workshops, and so psyched up to get my MS's (MSi?) ready, that I'm about to jump out of my skin with anticipation. I know that meeting my fellow writers is going to be the absolute best part - and the part that will get me through the jitters.

Tawna Fenske said...

Great post! I've never been to any sort of a writers' conference, but recently joined RWA for the first time. I'm planning to hit the 2011 conference in NYC, but Orlando this year certainly is tempting!


L. T. Host said...

I've decided next year I'll make the effort to go to a conference. This year, they're too expensive. But this post has made me want to go even more... so next year, I will. :)

Elizabeth Ryann said...

I haven't the faintest idea who Ray Stevens is, and yet you have still convinced me that I really want to go to a writer's conference. Thanks!

Lickety Splitter said...

I'm so jealous. I have no select "society" to confer with ;)

Cynthia Reese said...

Anne, I'm with you on the brownies and the room service!

VR, let's make it a date!

Susan, hope you have a rockin' time at the SCBWI conference!

Tawna, you, me, VR, and Anne -- we'll order room service brownies and not look at the bill when we sign it.

LT, it's worth every penny. Take the fam and call it a working vacation. Besides, part of it is tax deductible. Honest.

Elizabeth, Anne and I should really further your cultural education. Glad you got the spirit of things, anyway!

Lickety Splitter, c'mon with us -- you'll fit right in! (And no, that is not an insult!)

Holly_D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Holly_D said...

You are too right Cynthia. And isn't it wonderful to be a misfit. I simply cannot wait to have the opprotunity to go to one of these conferences because I can relate to everything you've written here. There was a whole lotta head nodding going on.

Shannon said...

Amen. :)

Great post.

Anonymous said...

I've never been to a writing conference and you make me really, really want to go. I have a writing group so I don't get the writing-lonelys too often, but a whole room of people with a manuscript in their bag just sounds delicious. Thank you for this!

Chris said...

We have that "Why do you do this if it makes you miserable?" conversation in our house at least once a month! Conferences are indeed a wonderful reminder of why it's all worth it.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy the company of other writers. I like the energy at conferences. We feed off of each other as we learn about writing, publishing, and marketing.