S and I went for a Night Walk around the park with Basil this evening. These are the best kinds of walks because there’s almost no one else there, the air is comfortable in summertime, you don’t have to put on sunscreen, and all of the squirrels (aka poodle bait) are asleep.

About halfway around, near one of the lakes, S and I started discussing writing conferences. I’ve never been to one. The idea of going fills me with excitement and DREAD (which might be WHY I’ve never been to one). Anyway, this week I learned that the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference will be right here IN Denver in September. I checked into it, thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal, but it turns out a LOT of interesting, important people have signed up to be part of this conference.

The only problem is…I have no one to go WITH. Okay I’ll just come out and admit it, I am ~fantastically~ codependent. I can do ANYTHING if someone holds my hand. But by myself…I BECOME wallpaper. And not even the delicious Willy Wonka kind. More like the I-WISH-I-could-talk-to-someone-I’m-going-INSANE Yellow Wallpaper. Heh. I blame my mother.

Trying to be supportive as usual, S asked me what the advantage of networking at a conference would be vs the old-fashioned query letter. So I searched my memory banks and recalled this post by Janet Reid, and told him that basically, conferences were like a chance to deliver a verbal pitch and prove in person that you are not a yahoo.

To which he responded: “And with that in mind, WHY do you think a conference would be AT ALL the right choice for YOU?”

Heh. S has known me a long time. In fact, he was in the room with me for my very FIRST real job interview. I was seventeen. We were both interviewing to work as “turndown staff” (aka we make the bed and put a chocolate on the pillow) at a high-end golf club for the summer. The woman interviewed us together to save time. S went first, chatting with the lady – we’ll call her J – and answering her questions. Then it was my turn. Typical, easy job interview, right?

J: “So Emily, everything on your application looks good. Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

Me: (O_O)

J: “Uhm…you know, do you have any hobbies? Things you like to do?”

Me: (O_O) *panicked glance at S*

J: (really trying hard here, poor woman) “Maybe you like to play sports…go skiing…perhaps something? Anything?”

Me: (thinking nothing she’d listed sounded appealing) “No…I don’t like to do anything.”

J: “You…don’t?”

Me: “No.” (O_O)

Um, so chasing down the point of this blog entry…perhaps conferences are NOT for everyone. I doubt the above exchange would WOW any agents or editors (in a good way) if they took the place of J. But okay yes, I have never been to a conference, so I WILL give it a try – to make sure. Because despite S’s kind intentions to keep me from embarrassing myself again…I’m a different person (thank goodness!) than I was at seventeen. I’ll never know for sure if I can do better than that at a conference unless I suck it up and just GO to one.

Incidentally — maybe somewhat because S was there cheering me on in the background, I DID miraculously get hired for the turndown job. LOL. So maybe I just need to hold out for a conference I can go to – not so conveniently close to home – with my amazing YA writing friends who cheer me on every day. Can anyone say…SCBWI Winter 2010? I know, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to fly 2,000 miles and spend TONS more money just for some cheerleaders to pull you off the wall… But neither does putting a ridiculous piece of chocolate on someone’s pillow every night, does it?

16 thoughts on “Turndown

  1. I bet you’d be great in person! But honestly, I think those small conference with the great speakers are an awesome place to start! And you’ll meet a crew of folks closer to you and you can become a gang and stuff. Travel around ripping up the conference scene. 🙂

    1. Aww, thanks Suz! I dunno, it’s easier to get ~lost~ in a bigger conference…very appealing! I’m one of those people that doesn’t make friends fast. The jury is still out…we’ll see. 🙂

  2. Up until January, I’d never been to a Conference before either. I didn’t go alone and even though my experience was super positive, I still can’t say with total confidence that I’m built for them on the whole even though I am capable of doing them & enjoying myself.

    Anyways, it is cruel that we should live so far apart from each other because then we could be SUPAH CODEPENDENT WRITING BUDS! 😉 But anyways, bb, GO YOU for thinking about this & coming to a conclusion it sounds like you are comfortable with. As long as you’re comfortable with it, that’s all that matters!!!! And there’s no reason it can’t be awesome. Also bb, ~*~ You will put the E in The Big Apple. Wait. I mean you will put BOTH Es in The Big Apple. Oh yes.

    1. LULZ! But what would mah…uhm…Codependent Big Apple be without a ~*C*~?? Heh. Still don’t know if I can pull everything off to attend 2010BigYApple, but we’ll see…it’d be codependently FUN. 🙂

  3. I just followed your twitter link to get here, and I love your story about the turn-down interview. I’d honestly suggest that when it comes to a writers conference, though, you think about attending a smaller one. The regional SCBWI conferences tend to be excellent and small enough that you can actually talk with and meet some people, while I’ve heard that the national conferences can really be overwhelming. And there’s also the possibility of doing a smaller retreat-type event; those have editors & agents, too, sometimes. Sarah Aronson and Cindy Faughnan (she’s cfaughnan on LJ) organize one at Vermont College that my friend attended in March, and she said it was fantastic.

    Whatever you decide, I hope you have a great time!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kate! 🙂 Ha! Worst job interview ever maybe? This is why writing is so appealing! Most of the time you don’t NEED to have these disastrous social exchanges. Heh. But I understand this IS another part of the business…and I see the wisdom of your advice. Thank You! If I can just be brave…

  4. Or go to a conference where you don’t have to pitch – let’s face it, one of the advantages of being a writer is that you can PITCH YOUR MANUSCRIPT IN WRITING INSTEAD OF IN PERSON. Yes, eventually you’ll need to have an intelligent conversation with an agent or editor, but, trust me, it’s much easier when they call YOU and start out the conversation “This is a really good book.” (If, however, the conversation starts “Tell me about your book,” I would be much like you on your interview for the turn-down job.)

    Only conference I’ve been to is the phenomenal Squaw Valley Writers Conference (www.squawvalleywriters.org/) – no pitching involved, but you meet and get to listen to plenty of editors, agents, and writers. And sometimes, yes, an agent who has happened to see your manuscript pulls you aside and says “This is really good – I’d love to see more.” And it’s in a gorgeous setting.

    1. Sara – GOOD IDEA!! It’s the idea of ~The Pitch~ that calls that first job interview out of the recesses of my brain. Eeek! If I could avoid that, I MIGHT have a chance at not sounding like a fool in normal conversation…gulp. Maybe.

  5. Heh. Love the interview. 🙂

    You can DO it, either way! Though I’m hoping for at least 2010BigYApple!!

    1. Susan, I have an idea! Why don’t you take up agenting, and I’ll be your first client! WIN? We’ve already met and like each other! Social Phobia averted in advance!!! ;D

  6. LOL! But why were there beds at the country club? *confused*

    I have co-dependency issues too. Stick me in a room with all strangers and I’ll be described as SHY. ME. SHY. I know, it boggles the mind. Stick me in a room where I feel <3'd and supported…. um, watch out!

    So I guess that means we should watch out in @2010BigYApple, right? We will be so hijinksy and impish that you won't even remember that you’re supposed to be reserved. In fact, people will be flocking to meet the girl who looks like she’s having way too much fun. (despite the fact that she ‘doesn’t like to do anything!’)

    (p.s. if it wasn’t stupid-September, aka AFTER-school starts, I would totally fly out and hold your hand)

  7. LOL it was a VERY big golf club and they had all these cottages that were like, high end hotel rooms for when the tournaments came through.

    That’s why I’m not afraid of 2010BigYApple, as much as I SHOULD be! Knowing you guys will be there to have fun with somehow makes all the anxiety ~flit away~. But don’t feel bad about September, bb! I do need to learn to go to these things by myself as a functioning writer… Um, maybe. We’ll see.

  8. I wish that I could find a conference around here. Of course my interview would probably go about as well as yours did…I am not as good at talking as I am at writing….

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