January 28, 2011

You Can Cut It With a Knife

The earnestness, that is.
It's so thick around here--all these lovely people hanging off of the words of the agents and editors at this Writing Conference.  It's making my skin crawl, and as usual, I write to figure out why.

I'm at the San Diego Writer's Conference, a tag-a-long to my daughter-in-law who is one of the lovely earnest people seeking a way for her writing to find its way.  We check in, pick up our packets then separate as she is in a different genre than I am.  Hers is easy: Young Adult (YA) Fiction.  And what is mine?  Am I referring to book in the bottom of the drawer, the one that I had placed in Big U's library when I graduated with an MFA?  The one I hope no one will ever find, as it has so many flaws?  Or am I referring to the book that is stuck in my head, like one of those amber-encased insects from a millenia ago, parts of which are written on my hard drive?  I try mainstream fiction.  Nope.  Then I ended up talking with Michael, who has come here before.

He works from 9:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. working at Dunkin' Donuts, putting the glaze and sprinkles on.  He's written 8 novels, has 350+ rejections, and is still working at getting his writing out there.  He was really interesting to talk to.  He looked around the room at the various tables.

"It's like high school," he said.  "The chicklit group--those women all have high heels on.  The literary fiction--the woman all have jewelry on."  He gestured over at the historical fiction table, where no one sat. "I passed by there earlier and everyone had beards.  And over there at the Fantasy table?  Those are like the nerds of high school, only now their imaginary worlds have taken shape."  He was dead-on, but I was getting hungry and left to find some food.

So, why don't I have the earnestness of all these people?  I came because I was curious to see what would happen if I was exposed to the Writing Life again, after being immersed in the Community College Teacher Experience.  As I drove to find dinner, it's that old drumbeat of inner critic: What's wrong with me?  Why don't I want to be a writer?  Where did the fire-in-the-belly go?  Am I too old? (A look around the room tells me no.)  Unanswerable questions.  The creativity urge pulls me to quilting.  I know that world.  I speak that language.  I hardly know what else to say here.  But here I am for two more days.  Stay tuned.

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