I had a great time at the Write Stuff conference at the weekend. This year, Andrew Lenza, one of my friends from the Monmouth Creative Writing Group, came along. We both attended the excellent pre-event workshop, 'It's Alive', run by Lee Upton.
After that came 'Page Cuts'. Having attended last year, I knew what to expect. Twelve willing victims submit the first page of their novel and a 100-word book summary for dissection by an agent, an author and an editor. Last year, I brought Waking up Jack Thunder, I've worked hard on it since then, but any confidence I had in the revised effort evaporated the moment I sat down. Submissions are anonymous, though I've since learned that the person whose work is being read out and critiqued is easy to spot (they're the one who's trying hard to look nonchalant ).
When it came to my turn, I braced myself for the worst. To my surprise, they liked it. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they thought it was perfect, but I was expecting a similar mauling to the one I got last year. Instead, they had lots of kind things to say, and almost nothing bad. One of them even referred back to it later - in a good way.
The rest of the conference went equally well. The next morning, I attended Karen Blomain's workshop, 'Ah, where to begin'. She did a fantastic job of making us look at our work from a reader's point of view. After that, I sat in on David Lubar's entertaining and informative 'To Err is Human, to Revise Divine.'
I met up with Andrew for lunch, he'd attended different sessions to mine, all of which he'd thoroughly enjoyed.
As we relaxed with our metaphorical post-lunch cigars and brandy, the keynote speaker, author, Juilene Osborne-McKnight, gave a fascinating talk on storytelling. At the start of the afternoon program, I had an appointment with an editor, who asked to see the full ms of my middle grade fantasy, Fur-Face. I scribbled notes during Maria Snyder's workshop, 'Weaving Complicated Characters and Intricate Emotions', wondering at how she made it all sound so easy.
For the last session, I chose Karen Blomain again. This time for 'A Kick in the Pants'. I'm not sure I'm ready to strap myself into the writing chair (like one of her colleagues does), but I definitely got some great ideas about how to stay focused and keep myself motivated.
I thought that was it for the weekend, but the day kept getting better. In the post-conference mingle/book sale, I learned that my short story, Snake Eyes, had won first place in the anonymous fiction contest (stories are posted outside the main conference rooms, where attendees can vote for their favorites). I confess I was so flustered when I got to read my winning entry, I quite forgot to thank everyone who voted for me. If any of them read this now, please accept my apologies, and gratitude. I know it's not quite a Hugo or a Nebula, but it's a start.
Best of all though, was when the agent from the 'Page Cuts' panel came up to me after the reading and asked to see the full ms of Waking up Jack Thunder as soon as it's ready (we'd chatted briefly since then, which is how she knew I'd written it).
In addition to the learning experience, which was more than worth the price, I can't stress enough how much fun I had. It was great to renew friendships with people I'd met there last year, as well as making new ones, which is always good.
It's true that writing is a solitary business, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself with like-minded people when you get the chance.
As soon as they announce the dates for the Write Stuff conference 2010, I'll book my seat. Hope to see you there.