Friday, May 02, 2008

Making a Literary Life Friday: Conference Highlights

Do you go to a conference thirsting for new content? Or is it your style to treat yourself to deep conversations with your writer friends, while savoring the chance to meet new people who truly understand what it means to live a literary life?

All four of us are just back from the Muse and the Marketplace conference, and it delivered a banquet of literary sustenance for writers, editors and agents. It ended several days ago, and we're still full of wonderful memories, epiphanies about writing, and conversations to recount. So here are our conference highlights.

Lisa Marnell
I could listen to Lois Lowry speak for hours and hours and hours. A true highlight for me this weekend was meeting a legend. She has written 35 books and, as amazing as this is, they vary enormously in style, content, and the age group for which they were written. I just finished reading Gathering Blue, sequel to The Giver - OMG!

Karl Iagnemma and Scott Heim were inspirations to me this weekend. To blog readers, it must come as no surprise that Michael Lowenthal gave me food for thought - Avoidance sits in its place beside my laptop this very moment. Michael's insights regarding the differences between commercial and literary fiction led me to ponder my reasons for writing: it's love of the craft and the journey, to be honest.

And bonding with Amy, Hannah, and Lynne, now THAT was a treat, too!

Amy MacKinnon
First and foremost, thanks to Chris Castellani, Whitney Scharer, and Sonya Larson for what may have been the best Muse ever! I left there crushing on too many people. For those of you about to query agents, may I recommend Dorian Karchmar, Collen Mohyde, Julie Barer, and Mitchell Waters? They are the ones I met and whose workshops I peeked in on. Smart, gracious, and very kind. Of course spending time with my lovely editor Sally Kim was a highlight. Did I mention how exciting it was to talk to Asya Muchnick about David Sedaris's upcoming book? Truly surreal.

The literati abounded! Julia Glass (a goddess to me; I SEE YOU EVERYWHERE will be out in October); Jonathan Franzen (you all read what he said at Harvard, didn't you?); Jenna Blum (beautiful, brilliant, and hilarious; she loves doing book clubs, if you're interested); Margot Livesey (it's Lynne's story, but I was there!); I hand sold Michael Lowenthal's CHARITY to several publishing types because he is one of the most brilliant writers of our time (please tell me you've read CG; no excuses, it's out in paperback), and I had the chance to spend time with another of my favorite, truly brilliant writers, Scott Heim, he of WE DISAPPEAR fame. We're all sort of crushing on him.

Of course I loved spending whole blocks of time with Hannah, Lisa, and Lynne. Can we do this again soon?

And while this has nothing to do with the Muse, I have to congratulate my dear friend, Hank Phillippi Ryan on receiving the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Didn't I tell you her PRIME TIME series was delicious?
Oh, and my web site went live today. Check it out.

Hannah Roveto
As you can tell, it was quite the amazing weekend. First, it was so good to have all four of us in the same rooms at the same time! It was also a huge treat to spend time chatting with our long-time faves like Michael Lowenthal and Scott Heim, as well as newer faves like Jenna Blum and Paul Yoon. And a shout out to Trish Ryan!

Mameve Medwed was gracious and fascinating; she agreed to be interviewed for the blog, so look for that in about two weeks. Her writing "group" partner Elinor Lipman has also agreed, so once the whirlwind that is her new movie, Then She Found Me, slows to a Nor'easter, that will come your way as well. We met fabulous Anita Shreve, as well, and perhaps yet another interview will be forthcoming from that? Fingers crossed.

I was impressed when the agent who'd read my MS two years ago at the Manuscript Mart said I looked familiar. It's the little things, isn't it? Hearing I will be done this summer, and that not only is it complete, but stronger and better, she said to send it her way. Yay! The agents and editors were every bit as giving as the authors; one example was the Agent Idol sessions the geniuses at Grub set up: three agents on stage, one reader presents submitted pages of up to 250 words. Each agent would raise a hand if/when he or she would put the MS down. If two raised their hands, the reading stopped, and in each case, the agents explained why they would or wouldn't be interested in more. Kudos to the brave writers, for whom anonymity was beside the point. Your words out loud in front of agents in public? Formidable.

One other session attended not mentioned elsewhere: D.Y. Bechard's Vicious Intimacies, Mourning the of Monsters, was an unbelievable review and set of exercises in making antagonists -- and protagonists -- rich and round and intriguing. Check out his book Vandal Love for these insights in action.

And last, it was great fun just plain meeting other writers, no matter what stages their work has reached. To write is to live in your head, and to have the chance to hang with a couple hundred people who know what that means is invaluable. Thank you, Grub Street, for a great weekend!

Lynne Griffin
One of my highlights was spending some social time with my fantastic editor from St. Martin's, Hilary Teeman. It was a real treat to get to know her better.

I will always treasure my Margot Livesey moment. At a cocktail party, I introduced myself and thanked her for her wonderful blurb for LIFE WITHOUT SUMMER. She put one hand out to Amy, and her other to Hilary and said, "You two should really read this novel, it's wonderful." When we smiled and told her Amy was in my writers' group and Hilary was my editor she said, "Well then you know how great it is, don't you?"

I was really pleased with the job my panel did on sharing tips for promotion and publicity with our audience. I'm grateful to Janet Reid, Alison Bass, Jocelyn Kelley and Jenna Blum. Thanks for making a moderator's job so easy.

I took three fabulous workshops. I learned everything Lisa Scottoline knows. Learned to build characters with Julia Glass. And have now adopted a wonderful revision process outlined by Karl Iagnemma.

You'll be hearing so much more from all of us as the weeks progress. There is simply too much to share in one post. But I know I speak for all of us when I say one very special highlight was spending time with Scott Heim.

And if you haven't bought his book, We Disappear, yet, get thee to a bookstore. Haunting and lyrical, it is a beautiful novel.

Congratulations, Scott!


Larramie said...

Goodness, I knew the blogsphere was quiet today but to be the first comment at this hour...? Hope others drop by over the weekend and catch your enthusiasm.

And, Amy, you made my week by showing off your website. Lovely if not a bit eerie! Also, you SO rate with the daisy in the corner of the URL. *G*

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Larramie, people seldom comment on Fridays, but it tends to be one of our more popular days in terms of traffic. And thanks for stopping by the web site. It's a surreal experience to be sure.


Carleen Brice said...

OK, I'm officially jelly now. You guys have too much fun and meet way too many cool writers!

Carleen Brice said...

Amy, your site is beautiful! Congrats! And your story about Clara Marsh is eerie and wonderful. Just that story alone would make me buy the book, and then you got flowers too?! This book is going to be huge!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Carleen, we do have fun and feel fortunate to besurrounded by amazing writers. Of course youhave one of the best bookstores in the nation in Denver. And thanks for your compliments re: the website and book. Coming from you that means a lot.


Lisa said...

I was one of those who came by Friday to take it all in and was speechless. What an experience. I am looking forward to lots of follow on posts about this amazing weekend.

And Amy, your website is just beautiful. I've just finished reading every word. I think I had picked up bits and pieces about how TETHERED came to be, but I didn't know the whole story. Just amazing. I am so anxious for this book to be released. I love the teaser I've read so far and can't wait to read every word!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

I'm overwhelmed, Lisa, thank you.


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