After Friday at the San Francisco Writers Conference, Day 2 and Day 3 felt like a sequel along the lines of The Next Karate Kid. So rather than feign my own interest and produce a dull post, I’m going to be brief. Or at least try.
An Interesting New Website: Red Room, “the online home of the world’s greatest writers.” It’s some type of social networking site aiming to bring authors and readers together. This might mean a forum for authors to collectively self-promote. I hear Amy Tan wrote her very first blog post. Is that exciting? Regardless, after my first brief site visit, I’m intrigued.
A Cool Person: Jane Ganahl, co-founder of litquake, long-time journalist, author of Naked on the Page: the Misadventures of My Unmarried Life, and author liason for Red Room, surprised me by being one of the few presenters at the conference I sorta wanted to be friends with.
Advice I’ve Already Heard and Still Hate: Platform, marketing, publicity, platform. You must have a web presence. Blog. Participate in the interactive community: post comments, comment on comments. Most of the annoying advice came from Kevin Smokler, a public speaker who packs a punch, a guy with a quote for every occasion. He’s also a likable fella, even though I’m not into inspirational speakers; they all remind me of evangelical preachers. Throughout the conference, Smokler held fifteen minute consultations for $50 each (he donated all the money to conference scholarships), which means his going rate is $200/hour? He really must know his stuff because his entire schedule was booked up with one-on-one conferences.
Another Interesting Website: Booktour: Where Authors and Audiences Meet. Kevin Smokler founded this site and promotes it as a revolutionary all-encompassing list of literary readings. The readings are searchable by author and location. Even people in rural Mississippi can find out when John Grisham is coming to the local Borders.
Most Embarrassing Moment: Pitching an editor at Random House/Broadway Publishing. I thought the Editor’s Round Table was an event where a group of people sat at a table with an editor and asked questions about publishing, then rotated tables. I sat at a table with a sign for the editor at the biggest house at the conference. Why wouldn’t I?
Well, as it turns out, the point of this event was to pitch this editor. Okay, sorry, despite what editor Christine Pride said, I do not believe she looks at unsolicited, unagented submissions. Anyways, I was second in the circle. Yes, we did this in a group setting, and about thirty people crowded around the table waiting for the next chairs to open up. A timer was placed before me. I more or less read a piece of scrap paper that will eventually become the first paragraph of a query letter. Pride smiled sweetly and said her house isn’t interested in transgender themes; they already published a book with such themes this decade. Shucks. I did hear that the book, She’s Not There, is quite good, and I heard the author, Jennifer Boylan, read at Writers With Drinks last week. She’s a better writer than I am, but I think there’s room for two of us, just not at Broadway Publishing.
Least Embarrassing Moment: I helped an elderly man in a wheelchair during a couple of breakout sessions. When I finally said bye, he replied, “Thank you, son.”
Event I’m Happy I Missed: Speed-dating for agents. The line to enter the conference room snaked through the whole lobby. The event was broken up into 3 hour-long sessions. Each person had three-minutes to pitch an agent (one-on-one at least). It was the first time I felt bad for the agents.
Conclusion: I’m cured! My desire to work in the publishing industry is crushed, just as I hoped it would be. I can’t pinpoint exactly what did it–the people, the conservatism, the business aspects, the fear of working on books and projects I hate (many of them), or if it was seeing agenting and publishing for the reality not the fantasy. After this conference, all I want to do is ignore concerns about publishers and agents, avoid other writers, close my door and write.