Monday, January 31, 2011


this weekend i attended my first writers conference with 1,100 other YA and picture book writers. the hope, was that in this age of faceless socializing i could meet some actual faces to socialize with.

the night before i intended to be in bed early, but then ended up watching an episode of Battle Star Galactica. and then another. mix in nerves and i didn't fall asleep until 4:30. my alarm went off at 6:15.

the conference was at the beautiful Hyatt at Grand Central Terminal. since i'm painfully early to everything, i arrived at the beginning of registration and had 40 minutes to kill eating bagels, drinking coffee, and trying to look like i wasn't standing by myself. it was then i realized i hadn't been in a fish-out-of-water situation in quite a while.

it was exhilarating. it was awful. standing there, with coffee cup clutched in hand, it felt like a high school dance. you know you're there to dance. everyone else knows you're there to dance. you'd really, really like to dance, but instead it's all sly sizing up, bashful eye contact, and a whole lot of people clearly deciding not to take you for a spin and walking past.

i killed some time with a friendly picture book author and then the conference kicked into gear. there were speakers, and a panel discussion, break-out sessions with editors giving gloomy (trying to be sunny) analysis of the industry, a woman putting her hand on my arm, and in her very southern accent telling me ultra-slowly as if English were my second language: "honey, what you need to get published is an A-gent" and in between and during it was networking, networking, networking.

it was face-filled socializing and it was weird.

but i did meet another great picture book author, and two super helpful, nice YA authors at lunch. and i also learned from the editors that all this new social media that we authors are embracing, hasn't proven to sell books. which is good to know, because i'd hate to think that what now takes up about 60 percent of my life didn't have a point. *insert smiley face symbol here to show i am mostly joking, but a little freaked out by this statement.*

all said, other than some very nice people, this was my favorite part of the conference the first day:

these were the lights on the ceiling of the main ballroom. they looked even prettier from the side.

i cut out early for work. worked and went to sleep at 1. when my alarm went off 5 hours later, i couldn't remember what i was waking up for. then i did and almost rolled over and went back to sleep. instead i groaned, got up, and trekked into the city again.

thank goodness i did. have you read anything by Sara Zarr before? neither had i (though i bought a book) and well, please ask her to speak at your next anything, because she was amazing.

her whole talk was about finding/building a sustainable creative life. to paraphrase: maybe you'll get published this year, maybe next, but you know what? that won't be enough. because there will always be something else you pin your hopes of happiness on. better reviews. more sales. the next book. so if you don't have a sustainable creative life -- one in which you enjoy the work you do, take care of yourself, and produce -- you'll always be miserable. and trust her, she'd been there. in fact, successful as she is, she still struggles with that.

i'm not doing her speech any kind of justice, but it was wonderful. it was worth waking early for, it was worth the cost of admission, it was worth the whole damn thing. i was even that person who waited to thank her after it was over (no worries. i kept it brief). it was exactly what i needed to hear.

i could have left then. but i stayed with the hopes of winning door prizes, not remembering i've never won anything in my life. my prize was getting to leave.

i came home exhausted and couldn't decide if i wanted to waste precious napping time by making lunch. stomach rumbling, i decided delicious buttered pasta was well worth the lost sleeping time. 15 minutes later (whole wheat pasta takes so much longer) i went to drain the water, and promptly poured all the pasta directly into my very dirty sink. only one noodle remained in the pot. if i hadn't been so close to tears, maybe i would have taken a picture:

*insert pasta in sink pic here*

after a snack of canned, buttered chickpeas, i took a nap, and woke to find these weird, um, let's say, missle-shaped marks on my chest:

a quick hour later, it was back to work. walking there, groggy, with terrible hair, i had this thought: What's that Christmas tree doing crossing the street?

but it wasn't a christmas tree. it was a woman in a big green coat.

now, with my first ever writer's conference behind me, what have i learned? many things i already knew but that suddenly feel fresh.

as much as this experience of being a writer varies, for the most part we all experience it the same. also, i miss writing. just as i suspected, the conference underscored that the work is more important than anything else. and i can't wait to get back to it a little more full time. i learned that in this solitary profession, the opportunity exists for a tremendous amount of socializing. i also learned, unexpectadly, that that socializing is a little exhausting.

and most accutely, i learned that i am NOT a morning person. so now, before work, before i mistake another human being for a tree, perhaps another nap is called for.


  1. How awesome that you got to hear that talk - perfect timing :o) So glad you went and had a pretty good (albeit exhausting) time. Now get some sleep!

  2. Sounds like that speaker made the conference a success for you! And those marks on your chest - obviously La Chupacabra.