Author Fest Recap 2012

Recap schmecap.  I didn’t take notes, I just went.

Getting me to go to a new public event is a big deal.  I kind of feel bad for the people who got me to go: who invited me to speak.  Because I had to have been whining and digging in my heels, at least subconsciously.  But, having worked with writers to get them to give me the information I need to post their good news on the blog, I shouldn’t be surprised.  You don’t think of yourself as an ornery cuss on a day-to-day basis, but dealing with all the crap of being an “author” comes as a bit of a shock.  What?  Me?  Have a book out?  It can’t be so, and thus your request for more information to help promote my book therefore also can’t be so.  Writers don’t really invest experience points in not making an ass of themselves.

I went.  Ruh was there.  I have to admit, this being the first time that I’ve seen him since he had his leg off for cancer, that it was startling.  It was like being in the Matrix.  Unless you knew, unless you were watching for it, it didn’t seem like he was missing a leg.  I could look at the stump, just look right at it, and so not want to see it that I felt like it was deja vu or something, a living illusion.  There was a leg there, I just couldn’t see it.  I sat down next to him and gave him scritches, getting down into the skin.  While I was doing it, Chris, his owner, said that he’d been losing weight, every time he went to chemo, he lost weight, but until she said it, I couldn’t see it.  His skin was loose, and his harness seemed like it was too big for him, but I just couldn’t see it.  I ended up putting a film of dirt and dog hair all over my black pants, and I had to use Chris’s de-linter roller to get it all off.  She just carries that kind of stuff around with her.  Normally, Ruh doesn’t make all that much eye contact with people, but this time: he was staring at me, not teeth-bared or anything, just staring at me like a little kid would do, to get you to come here when they had to be quiet.  Come here and be with me.

I talked at a class for indie book publishers; it went fine.  Deb had been talking the hour before, so she didn’t talk much.  Ron Cree talked about getting screwed over by his publisher, and explained (it seemed logical) why he wanted to go indie (he hasn’t yet).  He’s still keeping his options open.  Bob Spiller talked about getting screwed over by his publisher, and explained that indie publishing was kind of fun.  I talked about…well, being petty and jealous about a friend who was indie publishing as I was in the middle of the “get as many rejections as possible” challenge.  And about getting a book rejected because publishers had too many similar things in their lists.  I could have talked about getting screwed by my publisher, too, but–them’s the breaks.  Newbie writers = sheep.

Barbara Samuel/O’Neill gave this shining beauty of a speech asking what, as a writer, you believed in.  She stood up there in teal flip-flops, a housedressy-looking thing, and a long, white sweater that went all the way down to her calves, which look strong and ropy enough to run marathons with, and looked exhausted.  Part of me hopes she doesn’t read this, but she did, she looked exhausted.  I’ve never seen her other than polished up to a high sheen, looking like she loves life and is beautiful without trying.  But there she was, looking exhausted, and giving one of the most inspiring speeches I’ve ever heard.  I’m tearing up over it now.  That was Friday.  On Saturday, she looked more like I’m used to.  It was like an illusion, except I remember that it really happened.  I feel like she gave me a gift, that she bent over backwards to show up to give it to me, and I think I’m more grateful for it, because she didn’t have the juice to do it that day, and she did it anyway, and I needed it.  It also made me realize that, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be Barbara Samuel, and that even to try would be a kind of eye-rolling stupidity.  She does the best Barbara Samuel there will ever be; I just have to let that go.

But, here’s a starter list of things I believe in:

  • I believe that none of us are wise enough;
  • I believe in soft blankets, in shirts that are soft on the inside, in secret, so you can wear them when the days are hardest and nobody will ever know that you’re surrounded by softness;
  • I believe that kids don’t cry in grocery stores because of brattiness, but because of an essential injustice of someone not listening to them;
  • I believe that it’s bullying to threaten to throw away your kids’ toys if they don’t behave;
  • I believe that being among trees or in a garden or in any place is different than seeing a picture of it, that it’s important to go;
  • I believe that sometimes I love the idea of mice invading the house in the winters, and sometimes I hate it, and it doesn’t make me two different people;
  • I believe in the power of putting things in order, but not in any old order, in the order that they were meant to have, even when that looks like chaos;
  • I believe in cleaning in order to make room for a new mess;
  • I believe in cleaning in order to get my head on straight;
  • I believe that people will tell you all kinds of shit to get you to behave, even if you tell them that you have special dispensation not to have to behave the same way they do, and they won’t even know it;
  • I believe that I like to follow rules more than I like to disobey them, and that scares me;
  • I believe in the power of comfort, not so much of comfortable–I’ll refuse to eat, to drink, to get up to pee, to take a Tylenol, all kinds of things, when I’m busy–but when I’m hurt, where I go is for the chocolate and my husband’s big arms.
  • I believe that there’s an art to babble, but not a craft; you just have to let go and try it;
  • I believe in stories, although I often find that movies are too slow;
  • I believe in knitting, and how it makes movies go at just the right speed, which amazes me;
  • I believe in laughing when someone makes an ass of themselves, not because they’re ridiculous, but because it makes me feel like we share something in common;
  • I believe that editing might be the opposite of LSD, that it anchors you so hard in reality that it becomes painful to be there, like when Terry Pratchett describes Vimes as being two drinks too sober and whatnot;
  • I believe that writing has to invoke the power of babble, that you can learn all the craft you like, but you still have to get to the point where it all just runs out of you, without…stuttering;
  • I believe in cracked sidewalks with tree roots under them being better than new sidewalks;
  • I believe in trees;
  • I believe in looking at the world as though you could break everything into bits and pieces and use them to make something else, or that you could use what’s there as the basis for pasting something else on top of it; the world as balanced between a wrecking ball and decoupage;
  • I believe in being a smartass;
  • I believe in doubt as a type of belief, as a calling, as a craving, as a beautiful embrace that forgives just about everything;
  • I believe that I have something inside me, that everyone has that thing inside them, but that we don’t know it for what it is;
  • I believe in walking my daughter to school;
  • I believe in telling her the truth, even when she’s not ready for it, even when I quail in fear that she might ask;
  • I believe that my memories are full of holes and re-recordings and scratchy remixes, but for all that, they are all I have to truly remember with;
  • I believe that it’s good to take naps, to drink tea, to stare off into space and make people say, “What?  What?”;
  • I believe in cats and guinea pigs, and I believe in some dogs but not all of them; they’re too human;
  • I believe in the power of boredom and of brainstorming log lines while in meetings;
  • I believe that sometimes when you meet someone, you really do fall in something with some of them, although it’s not necessarily love as we normally think of it;
  • I believe that good hearts are inheritable, and that what some people think of as bad hearts are really good hearts that have gone too long inside a fortress, trying to keep from getting hurt, being bored, being railroaded into something they didn’t want;
  • I believe that yes, when the little kid brings you the plastic ringy phone and says it’s for you, you answer that shit.
  • And more, but I’m bored of typing this stuff up now.

The staff that ran the catering was incredible: I heard that two days before the event, the original caterers dropped the hell out.  I ate and ate and ate and tried to stop eating, oh, but the chicken soup, oh, but that salad, oh, but those cookies.  I had to leave the gluten-free stuff alone.  Everyone was like, “Oh, that gluten-free stuff is great!” But I was trying so very hard not to be selfish with it.  I know that the people who need it, really need it, and it’s hard to find a replacement.  I felt like I would be denying someone else a snack, just because I like to try everything.  But I broke down and ate some of the GF cookies anyway.  They were delicious, mostly better than the regular ones.  There were figs on the cheese plate.  I tried to explain to someone–Deb Courtney, maybe?–that figs were the fruit that made me realize that still lifes with fruit weren’t just completely idiotic.  She wanted to know–yes, it was Deb–about kiwis.  I explained that they were the wrong color.  Then, afterwards, added that they wouldn’t have been contemporary for the still lifes I was thinking off, the 18th-century masters, I think.  The sepia tinge, the anatomical exactitude of detail.  Nope, couldn’t have been kiwis.  Kiwis are an Andy Warhol kind of fruit.

I stayed for the last session to listen to Deb Buckingham talk: about turning hobbies into nonfiction books.  She’s having a new book come out, Dishcloth Divas. For some reason, the way she explained how to go from one to the other made sense, and I felt like lo, the heavens opened, I can now conceptualize how to write that kind of thing on my own, instead of following other people’s outlines.  It was a nice moment, but probably more complex than that: I’ve been going, “Could I come up with a class for that?”  lately, too.  Plus, talked about craft stuff.  Apparently, I should be able to listen to nonfiction–podcasts–on audio, but I shouldn’t expect to be able to both knit and listen to fiction; it seemed to throw most of the group.  More people knit than you know, I guess.  I’m looking forward to the book, but I want to get it in print, because it’ll be so pretty.  Deb talked about using Pinterest to store pictures with good color design, so she could design projects around the colors: I love that.  I just love it.  I wanted to ditch the next day of Author Fest at that point and go knit shopping, but I knew that that would be an irresponsible thing to do.  I’m going to pick up mats for my next project before next weekend, though, so I’ll have something soothing to do in the middle of stressful times.

And then I went home, because.  Other writers can throw themselves into the maelstrom of art and other people at the same time, but it drains me.  For example, when I come home from Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference, I’m exhausted and depressed.  I feel like I’m not a real writer, not even a hack, just a wannabe, just an idiot.  Emotionally drained.  But here–I came home tired, yes, but still able to function.  “Oh, you have a family to take care of,” people said.  Now, days later, I have the better response: “They can take care of themselves.  I need to take care of me.”  But then, I kind of just stumbled throug it.  It’s hard to resist peer pressure wittily; at least I resisted it and went the hell home.

Okay, I’m bored writing posts now, so I’m off.  (The real reason I started writing this was that I’d burned out my editing eyes on two current editing projects today, and I wanted to try to wait it out so I could get more work done, so really, I should jump back in and finish the current section.)  More later, maybe tomorrow if I get stuck on something.  For some reason, that kept coming up this time, too: “Do you work on multiple things at the same time?” Everyone wanted to know.  Is it in the water?  What?  I kept telling people: “I do, but it’s not like that’s a good thing.  I just work on something until I get so stuck I feel like I can’t go on, and then I work on something else.  Sometimes I come back–I always promise myself I’ll come back–but sometimes I don’t.  It would be better to just be able to focus.”  It would, but I run out of one particular type of attention, and I just have to switch gears or give up for the day.

–Lee’s truck door slams with a content kind of thump.  Now it’s really time to go.





The story I didn’t want to write hasn’t gone away yet.


Two types of lies (for writers)


  1. Okay, I’ll send you sweet success bits. Don’t hurt me.

    Thank you for the Ruh down. That brought tears to my eyes. I want very much to go to Authorfest, so thank you for filling me in.

  2. De

    I know…it’s just mind-boggling. But do send your stuff 🙂

  3. Liz

    There’s a lot about this post that I loved. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, even if you got bored at the end. 😉

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