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F. P. Dorchak

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Writers, and Agents, and Editors, Oh My!
4/14/2007 8:11:36 AM    [ Flag as Spam or Inappropriate ]

Next week I’ll be attending the 15th annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference, in Colorado Springs, CO ( I’ve only missed one in 15 years. I most likely will not have a blog posted next week because of this, but might be able to peer through bleary eyes and get past any “ego-stomped issues” that next week. If not, know that I’m drowning my tears in sorrow somewhere...or packing up yet another submission for publishing house/agent review!

Let the madness begin!

The PPWC is a fun place. A scary place. A place not for the thin of skin, the easily damaged. A place for groupies and fanatics. A place where people of like mind gather and meet, exchange ideas, do battle with lots of “Should or shouldn’t I’s,” and participate in brutal, soul-rending, torture--and each and every attendee PAYS for this. It’s a place where all of us hungry and not-so hungry writer-types congregate in hopes of landing an agent, publisher, or just a sympathetic ear. In short, it’s what each attendee makes of it. Either we can curl up into little fetal-like balls of sorrow in some remote corner under the water tables (I’ve done this), or we can forge into the fray, elbowing ourselves past our doubt and inferiority complexes and make something of ourselves and our work (done this, too). I’ve always heard that writers don’t like to talk about themselves, and perhaps there is some truth to that--SOMEWHERE ELSE. At the PPWC, maaan, I have NOT seen that! You shake someone’s hand, and usually the next verbiage out of someone’s mouth is “What do you write?” Then comes the deluge: I write mystery. Sci Fi. Romance. Paranormal. I-write-an-as-yet-unclassified-genre-I’m-hoping-to-create-that-is-a-cross-between-Jennifer Weiner-Jim Butcher-and-Abraham Lincoln. Followed by descriptions of what they’re actually working on.

Or you can see any number of seemingly disturbed souls wandering through the hallways and grounds gesticulating and mumbling incoherently, eyes focused toward some fixed space no one else can see, as if they’ve been incarcerated in the loony bin for years (and, in essence, they have). But they know something all too real.

They have eight minutes.

Eight minutes to convince that editor, that agent, to take a LOOK at their manuscript at the Editor and Agent Pitch Sessions. And I say “look,” cause that’s all any one of us can ever hope for. Get our foot within the Emerald Door, past the slush pile (“Hi, Editor, we met at the PPWC last weekend, and you REQUESTED...”). And that doesn’t count all the desperate in-hall snags, where we really only have mere seconds upon which to hang our Fates.

Ah, the THRILL of the hunt!

Can you SMELL the blood?

Really, in this business, on this one weekend a year, we really have to be this way. Come out of our shells. If we really want to get noticed, we have to get past all the other Wannabes, and somehow, make ourselves shine. Snatch that editor or agent’s attention from their crème brûlée and current conversation (just don't be rude about doing any of this), and show them who we are and what we got. And maybe the PPWC has had something to do with that over time, and with who it’s attracted. PPWC teaches us how to pitch, how to present ourselves--not just on sheets of paper, but to the world at large. To those whose attention we crave. How to just waltz right on up to some whoop-di-do agent, stick out our hand, smile like our faces know no other option, and make that agent think we can interest him or her in something WE have to say, and that we can do so to a large percentage of the reading public. And the rest? Yeah, we can pull them in, too, cause we’re THAT good....

And that’s pretty damned gutsy.

Because, as SURE as we are about ourselves, in our work and our ability to charm the pants off just about anyone who enters our sphere of influence (isn’t that a curious turn of phrase?)...well, agents, editors, and the rest might have woken up on the wrong side of the bed...fought off some crazed writer with their full manuscript and absolutely no sense of decorum in an empty elevator three minutes wondering if they can avoid that corporate shuffling ax...or maybe our work and efforts just aren’t as stellar as we’d like to think they are.

But who cares?

Each one of us has to believe in ourselves, and not just as writers, but as people. And not take rejection/brush off so personally as we might end up doing. Yeah, no one likes to be put off, to be told, “Sorry, not right for me.” But that’s life. Writing is one of the few undertakings (note the apt connotations to that word...) in which the writer has to have some sort of ego. To think, yeah, I’m good enough, and I’m gonna keep pursuing this (expletive!) effort not matter what anyone says.

Heck, I been doing that for the better part of my life. Beating my head against the proverbial stone wall. With barbs. Poison-tipped barbs that cause very bad infections....

Why else would someone keep writing while also continuing to be rejected (okay, I have sold some stuff...)? Sure, it’s a sickness, but it’s a calling, a drive. A need to express. A need to create. Imagination busting to get out. It’s all that--and more. Pick your reason. It don’t matter. What does matter is that writers everywhere are WRITING. Trying to get noticed. There’s the academic train that says, much like the old falling-tree-and-no-one’s-there saw, that writing is good enough in and of itself even if no one reads it, and while that may be good for the individual soul, it certainly doesn’t sit well with me. We all write for many reasons, but, really, does it do any good if that writing is not READ? Arguments, both philosophical and otherwise, can doubtlessly be made. I do believe writing is good for the soul, but it should also be read, whether or not in the writer’s lifetime or after (or how bout BEFORE?!). It gives us insight and perspective. Joy. Enlightenment. You name it. Just do it.

So, just like anything else in life, there are many reasons for why anything is anything, but it does take guts (perhaps mixed with a little caffeine or sniffs of ammonia...) to do what we do every year. It’s easy to send out query letters from behind anonymous desks, nestled within anonymous dwellings--but it’s quite another thing to get up the gumption to approach some guy or gal who has the perceived power to spear your soul into the wall (or hapless attendee) behind you and make persuasive talk. I applaud all who attend this, and any conference. It’s a step in the right direction.

And, yes, it IS good for the soul!

Bring it on.

F. P. Dorchak
All Writing Helps All Writing

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