Friday, June 26, 2009

Writing Conference

Literary “summer camp” is how explained my week away from my 7- and 2-year-old daughters. And that's exactly what it was—summer camp for adults. Several of my writing friends and I have been planning this for several months. We signed up for the same workshop at the conference, studying writing under Julianna Baggott. We rented a condo nearby. I flew my mom in to take care of my kids. We planned everything. Christie even wrote a ridiculously detailed itinerary (which I loved, by the way) about what our literary week would be like.

And it hasn't disappointed. Ninety-five percent of the conversations have been about writing and reading and reading about writing. We have free writes each morning, where one of us chooses a topic and we all write with our pens (not on our computers) about that for several minutes. We've attended readings, book signings by the resident authors, afternoon panels about getting published and creating and perfecting our “craft” as they like to put it here.

I even got up today and read in the open mic session. “Who here are you ever going to see again?” was one of the comments that gave me the courage to pencil my name in on the list. Well, that and Julianna Baggott told me to do it (If someone tells you to jump off a bridge. . .) Oh yeah, and there was one other thing that gave me the courage—the fact that the agent I met with on Tuesday (beautiful Eve Bridburg) wants to read my entire 82,000-word manuscript. So I did it. I got up there and I read my opening line about hating flowers and the next two pages. It was scary and my voice shook and I stumbled over some words, but I did it. And it feels good to have done somethng that is so uncharacteristic, kind of like jumping off a bridge and the adrenaline that goes along with that.

My head is so crammed with good literary advice, motivational stuff, metaphors, images, descriptions. I just want to get home and continue writing, writing, writing. But my head's spinning and I'm having a hard time concentrating. I want to read—oh, but I want to write. And I kind of want to make this week I've looked so forward to last just a little bit longer—even though I miss my kids with a fierce passion I've kept kindled inside. I can already picture the joyous reunion tomorrow afternoon—there's hugging and kissing and hugging and laughing and maybe a little crying. Whatever, I'll take it.

And I'll take home all that stuff I'm learning—about the “what happens” not being important but “how it happens,” where a novel should begin, and all those marked-up copies of my first chapter of “Isle of Arden,” my take on As You Like It for young adults. I'm currently on page 154. It's a light airy thing, something that's really fun to write after spending the previous three years working on something so dark that my eyes watered as I explained the plot to the agent. “I know this is unprofessional,” I'd said to her as I wiped my eyes, “but it's just so close to me.”

“Send it to me,” she'd said.

“You mean like the first three chapters?” I'd asked.

“No, the whole thing. I want to start reading and not stop.”

I don't think she could have known how she just made my world. As I explained to my writing friends shortly after as I was nursing my headache of happiness later that afternoon, the beginning of my list of priorities goes something like this: “my family” and right underneath it is “publishing the book I spent the last four years petting and primping and loving and holding so close to me I had a hard time breathing.” Way after that comes my house, car, the closets full of European designer clothes for my girls, and all the rest of that materialistic stuff.

Well, for now I guess I'm going to have to halt on page 154 of Isle of Arden and start thinking about polishing and shining the manuscript because Eve wants it in at least a month. I've got to get going on that. I'm anxious and excited and can't believe I almost backed out of coming this year. I thank my talented writing friends Christie and Rachel and Annalisa for coming too. And for being my friends and as E.B. White says at the end of Charlotte's Web, “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” My writing friends are both.