Friday, October 24, 2008

Making a Literary Life Friday: Party!

Everyone likes a good party and we at the Writers' Group are no different. Well, actually we are. We're writers, we're not into swinging bashes and binge drinking -- with apologies to Dorothy Parker and William Faulkner. Our idea of a good time is a little more sedate: parrying over the relevance of the semicolon; flexible intelligence when it comes to the pros and cons of first and third points-of-view; and, oh heady times, the best first lines in literature.

And what better venue to discuss these matters than at literary events. Tell us about your favorite experience at a conference and, by all means, tell us the worst. Which authors give the best readings and who is a total snore. Tell us what events you'll be attending in the coming weeks and which ones you wish you could attend. And if you feel like it, let everyone know how you feel about that irascible semicolon.

Lisa Marnell
I will NEVER forget the day I interviewed Gregory Maguire at the 2007 Muse and the Marketplace. The Gregory Maguire of Wicked fame. He is easily the most intelligent and articulate person I have crossed paths with. At the end of our interview - he's so kind and generous - Gregory asked me about my projects and encouraged me. Ironically, we share the same literary agent (if I can finally get my final manuscripts completed), and he said this kind and experienced agent has been nothing but wonderful.

At times, memories of that hour I spent with Gregory Maguire comforts me. Sigh!

Amy MacKinnon
Hands down the best conference I ever attended was Grub Street's 2006 Muse and the Marketplace when after critiquing twenty pages of my WIP Asya Muchnick, Little, Brown editor of The Lovely Bones and The Dogs of Babel, asked that I submit to her when I finished writing it. I will always adore her for that. The worst? There was this event where the room was stifling, the drinks ran out far too soon, and a best selling author I'd met on numerous occassions claimed never to have met me at all -- in front of a rather large group of authors I admired. Worse, when we each mentioned a favorite book or author, and I mentioned Stephen King, she said, "I only read him in the New Yorker." Hmmm...

More recently, I was welcomed with open arms by the Duxbury Free Library and Westwinds Bookshop last Sunday. The library director Carol Jankowski said they had reservations for 60 and strange but true, my high school English teacher Roberta Erickson, whom I thanked in the acknowledgments of Tethered, was there as a bookseller for Westwinds! It was a lovely reunion. Thanks to all who attended; I was impressed and honored with your questions.

Lastly the event I'm most looking forward to attending with Hannah by my side is Grub Street's annual fundraiser Taste of Grub. It's sure to be huge and I really, really want to see you there! Will you come?

Hannah Roveto
One of the best was listening to Lisa Scottoline present at Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace this year. Holy cow. The talk was something like "Everything Lisa Scottoline Knows About Getting Published" and indeed, she covered getting started to elements of a novel to getting published in an hour and a half, including offering up her agent to us. A different, um, memorable one was a conference where a tall male writer decided to stand out from the crowd wearing bike shorts. No matter his talent, the crowd was divided into two groups: those who dared look down and those who memorized his face.

I wish I could be at the upcoming PEN New England's Horrors of the Publishing World event, but will dedicate what I call my Literary Life funds for this season to Grub's Taste. Cannot wait!

Lynne Griffin
My favorite conference was also the 2007 Muse and the Marketplace conference. My manuscript pages were reviewed by Elinor Lipman's and Michael Lowenthal's editor at Houghton Mifflin, and she requested my full. I sailed off to the luncheon, plunked myself down in an empty seat, only after situated did I realize that I was sitting at keynote speaker Charles Baxter's table! His talk about taking this business one step at a time is one I will never forget.

My horrific workshop experience came just last year when I went to a noted author's talk. When someone in the audience mentioned that my novel was going to be published, she asked me to describe it. I gave my best two sentence pitch, and her response? "Oh, dear. I only write happy books." To which I was left to use a line from Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life. "No kidding."


La Belette Rouge said...

I am delighted to find your blog exploring the making of a literary life. I am writing about Carolyn See's fantastic book on my blog too.
I hope you come over and say hello.

As to conferences, as a bit of an introvert I do not love writing conferences. Carolyn's advice to get out to literary events and conferences is perhaps the hardest for me.

LOL @ only writing happy. I do not only write happy.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

la belette rouge,

Going to conferences can be tough at first, but it gets easier the more you attend. Search the blog for our posts on attending'll find a number of pearls from Amy, Lisa and Hannah.


Shauna Roberts said...

I've had mostly good conference experiences. I guess my worst was attending a day of the Tennessee Williams festival in New Orleans several years ago (famous for its "Stella!" shouting contest). The conference was sloppy and disorganized in every way. For example, I showed up late at the conference hotel to attend my first talk, only to learn that the conference had been moved and the hotel staff did not know where to. After asking several people who looked writerly, I found out the new location, which was several blocks away. I rushed over, fearing I would miss the whole talk, and found the doors locked. However, they soon were unlocked, and I went inside to find that I had not missed the talk at all; in fact, the theater staff was still setting up the theater for the conference and almost no attendees had shown up yet (NOLA is not called the Big Easy for nothing). The talk started something like an hour or an hour and a half late. I remember only two things: 1. My neighbor won a prize for his unpublished novel, and 2. The lady in the seat next to me had a son with multiple sclerosis and told me many interesting things about him and the disease. I never attended another Tennessee Williams festival. Too hard on my German genes.

Amy MacKinnon said...

Shauna, as someone who's a stickler for punctuality, that would have driven me mad. Call it my Scottish genes, maybe Portuguese.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say thanks for recommending Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life. I picked it up a few weeks ago (in that same store I finally bought Tethered) and am enjoying it tremendously. She's so sarcastic and wise and inspiring and you can't help but get back to your WIP after reading a chapter.

Now that I'm living in a real city (near Toronto) with bookstores, libraries, and most importantly grandparents to watch my kids once in a while, hopefully I'll be able to get to some author readings and writers' conferences again.