I’ll be going on vacation next week, and when I return I’ll be spending a day or so at the PNWA’s Summer Conference, including teaching an “Author’s Master Class” Saturday morning (July 21). I’ve always enjoyed the conference, which I’ve been attending since long before I started Author. I was only in my twenties when I attended my first conference to pitch the first novel I’d finished. I had exactly one appointment with one agent. I had no idea what to expect. When I imagined this conversation, the agent was cruel and dismissive. She wanted to know why I was wasting her time. Didn’t I know who she was? This seemed very uncalled for, and so I delivered an imaginary speech to this imaginary agent about the real money I’d spent on the conference, and about the real value of every writer’s voice. When my speech was done, I thought, “That was unpleasant. I wonder how it will really go?”
How it went was she was very nice and interested in my book. I left the meeting reminded again of the difference between fantasy and reality. When we think of fantasy, we are usually referring to an ideal vision of the world, one arranged neatly for our success or pleasure. But fantasies take all shapes, including evil literary agents. We call these nightmares, but they are fantasies just the same.
Which is why I like writers conferences so much. Every year they ground me again in the human reality of writing and publishing. What a continuous mess my fantasies make of the world. What monsters those agents and editors become; what clownish parodies those other writers. And then I attend a conference and breath the reassuring air of human reality. No monsters or clowns here, only people.
Good to remember before I head back to my desk. My job now keeps me in more constant contact with those people called writers and agents and editors, but I can always use another dose of human reality. Good to see again the fullness of life in a stranger’s face across the conference hall. Good to remember and then feel it again in myself.
Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!