Hello from Casa Roney!
I considered just copying and pasting last week’s Coconut Chronicle and slapping a new title on it but…oh, I’m just so damn ethical!
By the tardiness of this post, you may have already guessed I’ve been busy. Our first few days at the Kozak mansion, during the times we weren’t being stuffed full of food, I was polishing up the new novel manuscript – well, the little I have written thus far, anyway. Then it was time for the Surrey International Writer’s Conference which I can sum up as:
Wow! Huh? Cool. Oh, great idea. Hello again! Nice to meet you. Slurp. Yum. Hmmm. Yes. Whew. (Please). Really? YIPPEE!!! Ha, ha, ha! Good. Oh, not good. Sob. Ahhhh. Fabulous. Where’s the chocolate? Cheers. (Applause). Must get home and write, must get home and write, must get home and write…
I won’t bore you with details only other writers would find interesting but I’ll share a few highlights. On Thursday, I attended a Master Class taught by best-selling author Jack Whyte. This class was special because you had to “audition” to get into it – I had to write a 750 word scene containing two people, a street, and a long weekend – and he only chose 15 people to attend. He read my scene to the class, in that sonorous, Scottish accent of his, and said he found my piece, of all those he received, the most intriguing.
Author Anne Perry gave a keynote speech that brought tears to my eyes. She spoke of empathy, of the power of books to give us an understanding of other people and other lives. For example, if you have never experienced abject poverty and starvation, the kind where you literally do not know if you will have any food from day to day, how can you empathize with those who have (and do)? Well, through books, you can go inside the thoughts and feelings of characters that are poor and starving. Anne asked us writers to strive to leave our readers “a little richer”.
There was also a mini-reunion of the RWA – Refugee Writer’s Association. Seeing as there are only four members of this organization, a mini-reunion consists of two people, Rebel Mom Jen, and me. Jen’s face was a welcome sight; there’s only so long “Polite Princess” can stay on the surface before “Martini-Swilling, Sarcastic, Trouble-Making Princess” kicks her out. Jen’s the kind of person who will not only put up with, but also join in with, this evil side of me. Mwa ha ha! She brought a friend, Sex Writer Mom, this year, who was just as fun – so we may now have five members of the RWA.
Another keynote speaker, Eric Walters, had not just me, but also the entire crowd, in tears and on their feet for a rousing standing ovation. He is a writer, but he will tell you his most important job is being a teacher and a parent. His books for young adults deal with difficult subjects – 9/11, street kids, etc – but they are important stories, stories that have meaning to his readers. Eric gave a multimedia presentation about some of the tragedies in our world and about the very special individuals, all kids, which are doing something about them. I’ll confess, I left the conference that evening feeling a little ashamed about my petty concerns.
There was a lowlight, I suppose. I was brave/stupid enough to add the first two pages of my new novel to the stack awaiting judgment at the SIWC Idol workshop. In this workshop, Jack Whyte reads out each submission anonymously to the room and a panel of editors and agents. The panel stops him at the point they feel they would stop reading, and then they discuss what they didn’t like and why they wouldn’t read further. The workshop is designed to show you how agents and editors think when they are reading manuscripts. Though it is very helpful, they also make a point of telling the crowd that personal taste is definitely a factor in their decision and just because they don’t like something, that doesn’t mean another agent won’t love it.
So how’d I do? Well, my opening paragraph got a big laugh, (which was what I wanted), but Jack only read to paragraph four before they stopped him. There were a couple of words they didn’t like. I suppose my feelings might have been a little bruised if it weren’t for my Ultra-Super-Wonderful highlight of the entire conference…
My editor/agent meeting.
Last year’s appointment with Big New York Agent was a high-tension, sweaty-palmed affair. I had high hopes, big dreams, and a manuscript full of blood, sweat, and tears. And though Big New York Agent told me my writing was excellent, he also said the manuscript had major structural problems. One year later, I have to, reluctantly, agree with him.
This year’s appointment with Big New York Editor was low key and relaxed. The new novel is in its early stages and the meeting, for me, was more about getting some professional feedback and the opportunity to ask some questions. She read the first five pages – said she loved them, thought they were great, wanted to read more. We discussed the plot and genre, and I asked a few questions. Big New York Editor and I clicked; she gave me her email address and asked me to send her the manuscript as soon as it is finished. Yippee!!!
And then, my meeting with Big Canadian Editor went just as well. I even asked her about some of the comments made by the SIWC Idol panel, (she said there was only one word she would change – so there!)
**I must give huge thanks and kudos to Helmi the Wonder Editor who is kind enough to read everything I send her. She made sure my manuscript was clean and beautiful before the conference and I owe her so big for that!**
Now I’m burning to get settled on Aitutaki and get writing. My goal is to have the new novel complete within a year. There’s no guarantee Big New York Editor will like it, or want to publish it, but I cannot express the power of Hope when it comes to the lonely job of writing.
Since the conference ended, we have been running errands and saying our good-byes. Emily is settled in with her Grampa and hard at work training him. I can’t write anymore about her as I have a big empty, painful hole inside me since we parted. But I know she will be happy and well cared for so…sigh.
We are shacked up with Patty-Cakes and Martha until our flight leaves on Sunday, (so soon???) And…ugh…my brain is getting heavy. Must have martini. Evil Princess trying to escape. More later…
QUESTION: Have you ever been so excited you almost peed your pants?
Until…next week (?), I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!
p.s. So sorry for my glut of unreturned emails; I’ve been swamped.I haven’t forgotten you!