Monday, August 8, 2011

Napkins, brain cells, writers, and clowns :: PNWA Wrap-up

When I got home from the PNWA conference on Saturday night, I emptied my pockets onto the top of my dresser. The usual wallet, keys, spare change, and pen knife were buried by the wads of napkins and envelopes, each of them covered in my handwriting.

Mind you, I had a Moleskine in my jacket pocket, two legal pads in my satchel, and my laptop.

And yet, I'm overcome by a desire to scribble on napkins.

There were a lot of napkin ideas this weekend. Enough to keep me busy for awhile.

PNWA is a great conference. It really is; I get nothing out of saying that. I've attended many conferences of various sorts, both professional and otherwise (cough-Star Trek-cough) and this is the conference that stands out in my mind as the one that was most organized and efficiently run. 

Also, as I was standing outside the auditorium, talking to Ev Maroon, when a guy walking past recognized me as "The Pages to type Guy" which I absolutely love. If I had a comicbook alter-ego, it would be "Pages to type Man!"

In that comic, both the hero and his secret identity would wear glasses or he'd be constantly bumping into things...

Anyway, I didn't get a card from you, dear reader, so drop me a comment and a link to your blog here so that I may know you better. 

Howard Carter and I had a great time. When I wrote that story it was not with the intention of producing a story for kids. Within minutes of first introducing my tale to the first agent, it became apparent that I'd written a kid's book whether I'd meant to or not. 

Thou shalt not write a book with a young protagonist and aim it at anyone older than your protagonist, I guess.At least not a protagonist like Howard Carter.

"B-b-b-but what about Ender's Game!" I wailed.

"Ender's Game is YA now," came the response. "Sorry, they moved the goalpost on you."

And that's how I became a children's author. 

Not that there' anything wrong with that. Better understanding the course and heading of the industry helped me rewrite my pitch on the fly and get myself into the right chair, in front of the right agent. Which is how Howard Carter's adventures ended up going in the mail to three agents and two editors who asked to read it. 

The highlight of every writing conference really is getting to get out of the writing chair and raise a glass with a group of people who know what it is to sit for hours staring at a blinking cursor, who know the exquisite joy of release when it's firing on all cylinders and you put thousands of words on the page -- when the writing is good and it's like you're taking dictation from the Universe.

I gave away all of my business cards and came home with as many as I gave away. It never fails to delight me, the new and interesting people I meet at these things. I had dinner and drinks with a number of outstanding people, all of them writers, all of them bearing untold depths. 

I had drinks with a former Democratic political operative (turned writer of political thrillers) and an aspiring children's author whose maiden name is Kerouac (yes, that Kerouac). I discussed the state of the market and how sales related to pitching books with an editor of one of the Vancouver BC newspapers.

During Deb Caletti's keynote address on Saturday I was seated next to a biologist who is -- when she's not writing -- a research scientist. When Ms. Caletti mentioned a stage in her childhood when her "bookloving cells were growing and multiplying", my neighbor began sketching a brain cell on her notepad with mitochondria gathered around to read a book.

When she asked me what it should be named, I came up with "Neurobiblioma", the metastatic bookloving cell. A concept that is absolutely laden with extra meanings...

In business and sports, they talk about "bench strength" which is an imaginary stat meant to reflect how much talent you have in the pipeline for your organization. 

The bench strength for publishing is immense.

I thought that identifying and naming the bookloving disease was the topper to an excellent weekend, but one more adventure awaited me between the dining room and the parking garage.

At the end of the day on Saturday, a very satisfied Scottie stuffed his pockets with napkins and envelopes in his pockets and boarded an elevator, trying to stifle the yawns. As the car plummeted down into the parking garages, I became aware of the curious glances of the couple sharing the elevator with me.

Bellevue -- the city hosting our conference this year -- is a swanky place, and this was the Hyatt. I was dressed nicely, but these folks were turned out in the sort of clothes you see in coverage of Fashion Week. Bellevue is like that.

The woman glanced down at the conference pass still hanging around my neck and turned to her husband. "Oh, that's why the hotel is so crowded! There's a clown convention in town."

I am choosing to assume it was because my tag proclaimed that I'm a humorist and not a commentary on my favorite suit.

More later. I have some napkin hieroglyphs that need to be translated into English while I still remember what they say.

1 comment:

  1. lol, comedians are everywhere. even if they look like they just stepped out of fashion week...



Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).