Confessions of a Writer's Conference Virgin
edited: Thursday, March 15, 2007
By Mary Lynn Archibald
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Friday, November 24, 2006
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My initial foray into the world of the Writer's Conference
(This won a prize from my local writing group).
“Why would you want to go to a writer’s conference?” My husband asked in his typical, irritating way. “I thought any writer worth his salt would have no time for such frivolity because he (and here, I assume he meant also, she), would be too busy writing.”
As usual I found myself annoyingly at a loss for a concise and snappy comeback; one that would shut him up and also make me feel better about the extravagant amount of money I was about to spend on myself. The fact that the money I was spending was my own did not help to mitigate my guilt over spending it.
After all, I had plenty of other items on my priority list–you know, the one every writer keeps with things on it like food and toilet paper and printer cartridges, and checks that need to be sent fairly regularly to the phone company, the power company (so they don’t turn off your modem or your computer), and those little emergencies your children seem to have on a regular basis.
I mumbled some platitude about wanting to convince myself I was a writer in fact, rather than someone who was simply writing—that is to say, malingering (though I didn’t tell him about the malingering part—that is my secret).
To my surprise he bought it, at least for the moment. This gave me the leisure to search for real answers to his question. Why was I going, indeed?
To rub elbows with other writers and share knowledge, certainly. To see and be seen? Not so important as it was in my youth. To spend a pleasant weekend with like-minded folks in a gorgeous setting, of course. To learn, primarily.
But learn what? Having been an English teacher in a former incarnation, I thought I had a pretty fair grasp of grammar and sentence construction, and although if you ask me I’ll deny it (angst being so fashionable these days), writing is usually fun for me.
Likewise, I don’t need to learn how to conquer writer’s block, how to be “creative,” (whatever that means), or how to deal with the vagaries of fame and fortune, should I ever be offered a crack at those.
What I needed to learn from attendance at a writer’s conference was how to justify my fun, and we all know that means knowing how to write work that not only sells, (I love to eat, and would rather eat lobster than hamburger—there it is, in all its shameless simplicity), but work to which I can be proud to attach my name.
To me this meant that I would not be writing a blockbuster like “Celestine Prophecy,” or “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”—or their many sequels—anytime soon. Therefore it follows as the night the day, that I would probably not be deluged with movie deals or six-figure checks, but my hope is, as always, that I will be able to sleep well and soundly at night and still be able to face myself in the mirror every morning.
So I took my virginal self to Asilomar that June, full of anticipation, hope, and lust—for learning, that is. And more than that, full of hope that I would come back as someone who without stammering, could call herself a writer.