Sunday, August 7, 2011

PNWA Summer Conference 2011

I have to say I wasn't all that excited about the PNWA conference as it loomed on my calendar this year. I was way behind where I wanted to be with my WIP, Water Hazard. Last year I pitched my former WIP when it was (and unfortunately still is) an incomplete wreck. I had put all of my great ideas into the cuisinart of revisions, but forgot to put the lid on. There are still dried chunks of genius stuck to the ceiling. The pitch I was using had more complete concepts in it than the actual WIP. It's like those summer movies where everything interesting is in the trailer and the movie is just an additional ninety minutes of nonsensical filler to bloat the awesome ninety second trailer into something people will pay $12 for. All I have is trailer!

Anyways, that was my first writer's conference ever, so I cut myself some slack. This year would be different! Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I had a crappy, but complete, first draft of Water Hazard in late November, which was my first first draft ever. Yay NaNo! At 64k words (kilowords?) it was even in the right ballpark for a YA novel. And there was plenty of time to get a second, maybe a third draft done by August, right? But no. December was supposed to be National Novel Editing Month, NaNoEdMo, but instead December through June became National WTF Happened to the Calendar Month(s), or as I call it NaWTFHattCaMoFo (careful - don't choke on your own tonsil trying to say that out loud). It's all excuses though, some valid, some silly, and some still in diapers. The point is, I didn't have much to pitch. So, again, triage mode: get that pitch polished up. And hey, whaddya know, I actually solved a few problems I was having by focusing on my pitch and central theme. Y'know, like how your story should have a central theme.

Well, I'm glad I went. It was great to be around a bunch of other hungry writers; it was fun to volunteer and work with Anne and Justin at PNWA again; and I got just the right balance of negative to positive feedback to keep my feet on the ground but be totally inspired to keep going. And the really crazy thing? I actually networked and met some real people out there. At a writer's conference. Crazy, I know.

I'm going to get this WIP revised and polished up and in the hands of the agents I met, goddammit, because the one thing I heard repeated everywhere is that tenacity is the key. Do not give up.

Some of my highlights:

C.C. Humphreys sending us out into the conference the first morning with a rousing performance of St Crispen's Day Speech.

Paraphrase from Robert Dugoni: Get the errors out of your writing so that you're measured by your writing, not your errors.

Chuck Sambuchino smacking down inane audience questions: "I already answered that; next question." and "Really? That's really your question?" After Robert Dugoni getting mired down in silly and repetitive audience questions the previous afternoon, Chuck's "suffer no fools" East Coast attitude was especially refreshing.

Cherry Weiner scaring the shit out of everybody at the Agent's Forum (Epic Black Car's 10 Facts about Cherry Weiner).

Pitching to nice people who don't represent your genre (or sub genre) isn't going to go very well and you're going to feel like crap afterwards. For the rest of the night. (okay, more of a lesson-learned, not really a highlight)

Everett Maroon kindly turning social media criticism around on itself like a Tai Chi master.

Deb Caletti: "If you don't follow your dreams, your dreams will [haunt] you."


  1. "There are still dried chunks of genius stuck to the ceiling." is an excellent and all-too-familiar moment we all have to experience at some point.

    Nice post!

  2. Thanks, Scott.

    Leaving my old WIP alone to simmer in the back of my brain while working on Water Hazard has actually helped it a bit. I'm looking forward to getting back to it. (and picking up itty-bitty bits of genius) :)