Guess what. A writing award. I won me one.
[OK, it’s not exactly a prestigious national award, but the recognition still feels soooooooo delicious!]
This weekend I attended the 17th annual Harriette Austin Writers Conference in Athens, GA. Like most writing conferences, they offered manuscript critiques for an additional charge. Unlike any other conference I’ve ever attended, they also featured a mystery theater dinner (Murder on the Disoriented Express).
There were many wonderful moments during that conference. I met some amazing, creative, writerly people. I’m not going to detail the full experience here, but let me just say that it was well worth the time and money.
Funny thing is, I wasn’t going to attend. Someone posted a notice about it on the SCBWI Southern Breeze email listserve. The presenters and evaluators were excellent and that mystery dinner intrigued me, but I ignored the burning desire that always comes over me whenever I learn about a new writing conference.
You see, I’m a bit of a writing conference addict. And I’ve already paid to have the first 15-20 pages of NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY critiqued by professional editors, authors and agents 8-10 times. (Seriously, I’ve lost count.)
All of the critiques have followed the same basic pattern:
EXPERT: “Well, you certainly know how to write.”
SLAY THE WRITER: “Thank you.”
EXPERT: “I’ve made some comments and minor suggestions, but it’s all very minor. This is good quality writing. Is the manuscript complete.”
SLAY THE WRITER: “Yes. The full word count is just under 90,000 words. Would you be interested in seeing more of it?”
EXPERT: “Possibly, however…”
[Now this is the point in the session where the expert can stop giving professional writing feedback and offer their own personal preferences about the type of book they would prefer to read/represent/publish.]
- “…I don’t like epistolary novels. You’ll need to rewrite it in another format.”
- “…I don’t understand the Star Wars element. If you’re willing to take out all references to Star Wars, I’d be willing to read more.”
- “…I think you should just write this as a memoir with a Star Wars focus.”
What I think: No, no and hell to the no!
What I actually say: “Thank you for your time. I’ll consider your suggestion.”
Then I walk out and try to to pretend there isn’t a black shadow squeezing all the air out of my chest. Try to ignore the slobbering gremlin in my head screaming, Why am I so weird? Why do I write these weird stories? Why can’t I use this writing ability to craft simple plots these publishing folk can easily label and categorize? Maybe I should just give up and self-publish.
After the Atlanta Writers Conference in May, I decided I would never again pay for a critique of this novel. And I also vowed to stop attending writing conferences until my second novel is complete and ready for submission.
So, when I saw the HAWC announcement, I ignored it. For a while. Then a good friend of mine started a new job at UGA. Suddenly, I had another reason to visit Athens and a free place to stay.
I signed up for the conference, but still didn’t submit my manuscript for critique. The day before the submissions deadline, I was looking over the list of evaluators thinking I might submit the first 15 pages of my current work-in-progress and noticed something I had missed the first time. One of the evaluators worked on the Star Wars novelizations.
Gad zoinks! Holy Star Wars geek-out!
I printed off my first 15 pages and scurried off the the post office with checkbook in hand.
And, just as I’ve always suspected, the guy with an understanding of Star Wars geekery and enough life experience to remember the initial craze in 1977, he seemed to “get” my concept. He didn’t tell me to ditch the Star Wars. He didn’t tell me the format was wrong. He didn’t question the genre. He nominated me for an award.
And now I will sit here and savor the deliciousness for at least a week. Maybe longer.