The Weirdest Weekend of My Life

Bloggos,

“Oregon Writers Colony 31st Annual Writers Conference”. It has a very serious ring to it. It sounds old and distinguished and… important.  It’s hosted in this remodeled 1900s boarding house that’s completely author-themed and overlooks Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. The conference is always held in April, a stormy and tumultuous time on the coast.

I came prepared to do work. I brought my MacBook, a notebook, and a collection of vibrant pens for color-coded notes. I was prepared to learn from someone who wrote a large, five book fantasy series about injecting my fictional worlds and characters with life.

What I did not prepare for was Ken Scholes’ boundless energy and his enthusiasm for folk music. Particularly Simon & Garfunkel.

KEn at OWC

What I did not prepare for was late night karaoke with Tim Travaglini, the Literary Agent™, in a dive bar whose moniker we decided to interpret as “literary”.

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What I did not prepare for was making new friendships and cementing old ones.

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Admittedly, the conference was more like a retreat. There were about 40 people in attendance, maybe five of which were not of retirement age. None of which were male. The three men present who were not the guests of honor were the husbands attached to writers in attendance. These writers have gone to the conference for years, some even decades! They all knew each other and spent a majority of their meals and free time reminiscing about conferences past.

As a newbie, and the youngest person by about a decade, it was a bit alienating. But, there was just enough Cabernet Sauvignon to fortify me, and when that ran out, the Pinot Noir made up the difference.

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Dousing my fears in blood red wine, repping The A.V.

My biggest goal for the conference was to “Network”. You know. Meet people in your field, make an impression, develop contacts. This is not a natural activity for me. I tend to avoid new people and social situations that are likely to demand I interact with anyone I don’t already know. If I hadn’t known Madhu ahead of time, I honestly don’t know if I would have kept it together over the weekend.

But, I did know her, and where before we were “Writing Buddies” I now consider her my friend. It’s about an hour and a half to the Sylvia Beach Hotel from Salem, a long enough drive to be really awkward if it turned out we didn’t get along. Instead we talked about all kinds of things, from our personal lives to our writing, to our hopes for the weekend.

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Me and Ken being dorks.

Ken’s lectures were mad dashes through his writing process, and though some found his methods hard to follow, I found I had a lot in common with him. We both write “straight through”, from beginning to end. Then we go back and develop the plot lines and characters in our revisions. We can also, when at peak writing performance, write about 1-2k words an hour.

It was really nice to discover that my personal strategy for writing has been successful with someone else.

Beyond discussing Ken’s process and general lack of structured organization (no outlines, no storyboards, no corkboards or color-coding) we did a pretty fun idea building exercise with post-it notes. I didn’t personally find this exercise all that useful, since I have no shortage of story ideas, but useful and fun don’t have to coincide.

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Did I mention it was stormy on the beach?

Then there was the Pitch with the Agent™. Each of us had a ten minute window where we met with Tim to talk about basically whatever we wanted. I pitched The Steel Armada to him, he asked a bunch of questions about it, then said, “feel free to send it to me.”

I, of course, assumed he said that to everyone. He did not. He did clarify the next day that, though he’s technically closed to queries, we are all able to query him because we went to the conference.

(An email sent later in the week further expanded on how to do so, per our conversation with him in the pitch.)

I treated the pitch like an interview. I kept the conversation professional, spoke about my other projects, and really talked about The Steel Armada with the most enthusiasm I’ve felt for the project in a long time.

This was all before the karaoke, by the way.

We went to dinner, managed to sit with Tim (the Agent™), and that set the course for the evening. Lots of laughter and conversation led to more wine in the library while Ken played guitar. After some cajoling Tim agreed to get up and sing with Ken, which led him to suggest karaoke.

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They sang America by Simon & Garfunkel, Tim tousled his hair just for the occasion.

Now, you may not know this about me, but karaoke is literally my jam. Naturally, I had to go. A group of us was all excited at the prospect of singing the night away until everyone bailed but me and Tim.

A five minute car ride and a u-turn later, we enter Moby Dick’s to find Newport’s finest wailing (heh, get it?) away at the mic. It’s 11:45pm on a Saturday, but there were maybe 20 people in the building, and only a handful of them were there for the singing. So, Tim and I had a couple of beers, I sang a couple songs while he lamented the KJ’s lack of Pork ‘n’ Beans by Weezer and then we argued about the hotel’s staunch “no WiFi” policy the whole drive back.

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The view from our room, the Agatha Christie.

(Turns out, there IS WiFi and Tim was special enough to get the code. Which he then gave to me to prove his point. Joke’s on you Sylvia Beach Hotel! I know your secrets!)

We were both worse for wear the next morning at breakfast, but I think it was totally worth it. Hopefully he does too.

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Nothing a little caffeine, beach view, and solitude can’t fix.

The last day was wrap up with Ken, where I made a great Arrested Development joke no one heard (there’s always money in the Apple Stand!), and then a Q+A session with Tim.

He had some really great answers to questions like “what are your options when the rights revert to you?” (aka, your book is no longer in print) and “How does (he) cope with the multitude of queries he gets?” (over 1k/month, he had to close to submissions to catch up), and “does self-publishing affect an author’s chance of traditionally publishing?” (Not really. It’s definitely not a negative, though you’re unlikely to sell self-published work, he’s more interested in what the current project is).

Et cetera, et cetera.

And then it was lunch, where my people engine officially ran out of gas. We beat a hasty retreat back to the car and drove back to Salem through some of the angriest weather I’ve seen on the coast. It was kind of nice.

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Who knew so many shades of grey could be so beautiful?

Ultimately, the OWC 31st Annual Writers Conference wasn’t what I expected. But, I put my best foot (and voice) forward, met a bunch of people, and for the first time really felt like I was doing the right thing by writing fiction. I was in my element, I was the ultimate version of myself, and I came away feeling inspired and excited to finish these revisions and finally get this book done.

I’d say that makes the weekend a major success.

Now if I can just hide away for about a month, I might be able to get all that energy back.

 

BZ

 

 

 

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 14

Hi Bloggos,

This last week just flew by! Anniversary celebrations, good news announcements, and plenty of work to get done.

Last Week

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit 1 chapter of The Steel Armada
  • Finish reading Saga
  • Read Binti: Home
  • Work on Sanctuary (500 words?)
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Edit 1 chapter of The Steel Armada
    • Barely. But YES! This chapter was really difficult for me, and was probably about 95% rewrites. These last few weeks have seen no editing because I wasn’t sure how to fix this one chapter, and now that it’s done I have a much clearer path for the chapters ahead!
  • Finish reading Saga
    • Yep! I didn’t expect volume 8 to end as it did, especially after the heartbreak of volume 7. I was pleasantly surprised.
  • Read Binti: Home
    • Yep! Finished it last night and will hopefully get the review done before I leave for the coast on Friday.
  • Work on Sanctuary (500 words?)
    • Yeppers! Got a good start on chapter 3 with 593 words.
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Chickity-check. This is the one thing I am super diligent about completing.

Weekly Word Count: 2,971

Overall, not too shabby. I would have liked to get Chapter 9 of The Steel Armada edited earlier on in the week, but I’ll take what I can get. I experienced a really rough “block” with this rewrite. It seemed that no matter how I approached it, I couldn’t come up with a solution. I do not like that feeling. I’m planning on posting an “Editing Check-in” of sorts once I finish revising Chapter 10, so I’ll talk more about my experiences then.

Graphic novels are a lifesaver when I really want to read, but don’t have time to commit to something big. Saga is always a delight, and right now I’m making my way through the Dresden Files comics. I love Harry, so seeing all my favorite characters in illustrations is wonderful.

Progress on Sanctuary is slow and steady, which is pretty much exactly what I want. I’m getting a sense for where the story is headed, and building up that backlog of chapters like I planned. Feels good.

Next Week?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit Chapter 10 of The Steel Armada
  • Read Down Town and Wild Card (Dresden Files graphic novels)
  • Review Madhu’s pages
  • Have SO MUCH FUN at the OWC 2018 Writers Conference

binti homeI plan to post the Binti: Home review on Thursday or Friday morning before I leave for the coast. There’s no WiFi at the hotel so you won’t hear from me over the weekend at all. In fact, I’m planning on keeping my phone on airplane mode while I’m gone. Which just means I will have SO MUCH to talk about when I get back!

Hopefully I can use conference time/downtime to work on The Steel Armada. I’m still torn about which laptop to take. I have this dumb two laptop situation until Scrivener 3 becomes available on Windows. So while my PC has Draft 2 of TSA, all my edits are being done on my old-as-dirt MacBook because Scrivener 2 has Revision Mode. Since The Steel Armada is my main project right now, I’m thinking I’ll take the Mac. But, if I get inspired and want to work on From the Quorum or something new, I won’t have my “current” computer. Or the internet to use Google Drive.

Ugh. Can Scrivener 3 just be out already???

The Dresden Files graphic novels will fly by, and honestly I’ll probably have them done by tomorrow night. I’ll finish Madhu’s pages tomorrow night or Thursday, and then I’m just packing and prepping for the conference. Madhu and I are carpooling, so my Corolla gets a spa day in honor of our guest. I even built a playlist of Writer/Book themed songs for the drive!

agatha christie roomAnd then we’ll be at the coast, wining and dining with writer types and learning all the things! We’re sharing the Agatha Christie room, which has an amazing view, a fireplace, and a balcony! It’s going to be raining and windy the whole time, but that’s never stopped me from enjoying the beach.

I’ve got a handful of writing/book themed shirts for the weekend, I’ll bring minimal makeup since folks will be taking photos, and a notebook and a slew of pens will round it all out. Binti: The Night Masquerade will probably be my book for the weekend, though I might bring a backup in case I finish it too quickly.

Gotta be prepared!

Anyway, I’m basically bursting with all this excitement! I can’t wait to have this amazing weekend and get to tell you all about next week!

I’ll be back soon with the Binti: Home review.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ