Just Writing Today at Grub Street Writing Conference

The weekend’s focus on social media platforms and the need to tweet burned me out this weekend, and so I focused on the good stuff today: writing. I tried to follow Mitali Perkins’ advice (Sense of Place in the Novel) in using specific nouns and verbs in a scene:

The patio was desolate – all of the building’s plush chaise lounges and teak tables still stacked away for the hurricane. My hands were sticky on the railing, the cedar trees huddled in the corner like scared kids. 20140401_153427The police sirens were more distant now, but the acrid smell of diesel fumes was still there. I dug the ball of my foot into the wood, squishing out the thick brown water and shredded brown leaves.

I was then inspired to write a character description in another class: Val is quick to smile, comically graphic, her whole face stretched out, eyes gone tiny, all teeth, stunning at first, her entire being revealed as a wonder-eyed girl, but arch and sad, needing to be loved and knowing how this was how to do it. 20140504_021420She wore little girl jeans, stone washed, and tucked her hands in her pockets, her thumbs out, leaning back, her pelvis girlishly out. She was adorable. And she knew it.

The weekend closed with the amusing and profound words of Walter Mosely: “Writers learn to be ignored and then envied. I turn on the computer in the morning. After that, everything is magic. Writing is my soul.” 20140504_130627Finally, in answer to a question about what it was like to grow up with a Jewish mother and black father, he responded, “White people have to learn to stop being white. None of us are the same.” As simple as that.

Meltdown/Epiphany at Grub Street Writing Conference

I slid into a bit of a self-publishing sinkhole today at Grub Street’s Muse and the Marketplace Writer’s Conference.

The morning started well enough.20140503_085533Dorie Clark (Reinventing You) spoke eloquently on the need to utilize social media, which she acknowledged as “an infinite void” where “you must prioritize your choices. Go where your audience congregates. Offer value and reason to engage.” dorie-clark-reinventing-you-HBRAll I had to do was find my niche. It seemed simple enough for my bad side.

I could build my community around a shared interest in exotic cats, firefighters, Newfoundland, orphans, uh, alcoholism and…performance sex? 20140321_223754I wasn’t so sure about that.

Jon Fine’s afternoon presentation was to the point: “Amazon is great if you want an audience. It’s free and you control all of your rights.” He reiterated Ms. Clark’s point that I just had to be willing to do all of the work, especially the marketing.

Literary Change Agent April Eberhardt‘s presentation also supported self (and partner) publishing, but she admitted that the cost would be $5,000-10,000 with no guarantees of earning a thing. 20140503_085800I wandered back outside and thought about all of this.20140503_085632Traditional publishing houses were becoming a thing of the past and so now this publishing thing was up to me, all of it, from beginning to end. Even then, I would probably not earn anything. 20140503_082824Yeah, I still have to think about that.

Digital Debate at Grub Street Writer’s Conference in Boston

I need to investigate any possibility of publishing my bad side and so attended a Grub Street Writer’s Conference town hall debate on the viability of internet publication. 20140502_133530I was bored at first, with the conversation focused on metadata and using key words as effective search terms. 20140502_162951My interest was suddenly piqued when Vook VP Matt Cavnar confessed, “We live in a utopia and post-apocalyptic world at the same time. We are truly in the end times.”

Author Steve Almond, a self-proclaimed “digital immigrant”, added: “The digital world is being used by us to foster our distractions.”

The digital proponents remained true. Rachel Fershleiser of Tumblr: “The digital world is just an opportunity to meet strangers in your underwear.” topless_chicks_playing_computer_games_640_04And to the question of whether quality reading was really being done on phones, she admitted that indeed it was “Books versus Candy Crush.” candu crushIn the end, as persuasive as many of these pundits were – innocently stating that “rich snippets” were in fact “engineered serendipity” – I was ultimately terrified by the willingness of so many to be plugged into the machine. the-matrixAnd I thought about writing about that.

Beginning a Mission Statement at Grub Street Writer’s Conference in Boston

I learned a great deal on my first day at the Grub Street Writer’s Conference in Boston, including that only 20% of Americans read a novel after leaving high school. 20140501_17130296% of books never earn out – i.e. pay for themselves.

Writers do not make money and that, along with great dreams, they must also set goals which are attainable.

It was in this mindset, and under the guidance of Katrin Schumann, that I wrote a first draft of my mission statement:20140502_081222To harness my no-quarter intensity and provide clarity through my prose, pitching the darkness in each of us, so that we may understand who we really are and what is to come.