Here we are again, ya’ll, deep in the post con funk that is the week after the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in the greatest city in the world (don’t @ me, people from everywhere else, I didn’t come up with the nickname). This was lucky number five for me and, as always, it was a trip. New tips found, new writing depths explored, and new doubts over which to panic (I kid. *weeps*). Old friends and a metric ton of new ones, all there to get better at this insane make write words thing we does.
Maybe I should keep practicing.
Anyway, that brings us to my follow up post where I wax poetic about all the sessions I adored (like I did for past WDC cons here, here, here, aaaaaaaaand here). Let’s keep it tight this year, I think, yes? Simple day by day format, maybe? Okay, you convinced me.
This past weekend, I attended the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City. It was my third WDC in a row, and I’ve enjoyed them all. I plan on attending next year as well, as I’ve learned something from each one. You can read my impressions of the previous two here and here.
I think I’ll start with a review of the three sessions I loved (yes, there are sessions you attend and don’t like for one reason or another, but I’m not going to hammer anyone (even though a few deserve it)), and then wrap up with some general observations. Long post ahead, so get comfy (or scroll to the bottom for the tl;dnr version).
Welcome to your Friday Morning FYI (super-late-since-I-was-attending-WDC16-this-weekend edition) – my chance to share observations/wisdom/rants in short, easily consumed form.
So, yeah, Writer’s Digest Annual Conference – my favorite writing-related event, the thing I wait for all year and then enjoy beyond reason (though this year I missed several dear friends I also enjoy beyond reason, who I applaud for instead doing important things for their careers). As I always do, I’ll put together and post a recap over the next day or two, but for today I need to decompress. So for this week’s FYI, I think I’ll post what I wrote for a prompt we were given in one of the sessions. The goal was to emphasize how characters of different backgrounds and in different situations would describe the same setting. My group received “Rich lady in a ballroom”. Here’s what I wrote:
The floor plan was perfect, each round, white-clothed table set precisely fifteen feet apart, eight seats around. The center pieces were perfect, tall with pink and purple orchids from the local botanical gardens, wide with sharp leaves hanging broad from crystal vases, full with baby’s breath and dime-sized purple flowers I didn’t know. The stage was perfect, raised just enough to allow everyone to see my speech without feeling dominated, with an enormous American flag backdrop, the generic display for someone about to announce a candidacy.
But none of it mattered. No one would sit at the tables. No one would smell the flowers. No one would hear my speech, because I’d canceled the whole f*cking thing when I got the call that Julie, my perfect daughter, had been in an accident.
WDC2014 was the first writer’s conference I’d ever attended. I learned so much, including how not-ready my first book was for shopping (me shopping it to agents, not the book going out to buy shoes, or something), met some of the most creative/dedicated/fun people, and left feeling like a member of a supportive community. So to say I was looking forward to WDC2015 is a whale of an understatement. I couldn’t wait to get there, and spent the previous week daydreaming about experiencing the same incredible vibe I’d gotten the year before.
But after an hour at WDC2015, I knew that wouldn’t be the case.
Four years ago, in a moment of insanity, I decided to write a novel. It would be about fairies – or rather, three kids who trip into fairies and the sometimes dark, sometimes fun craziness that follows. I could see all the players in my head, knew their names, and knew what they wanted. Eventually, I finished the book and was ready to move onto trying to get it published.
In doing my research, I found-out about writers conferences and signed-up for a big one in NYC. I worked-out all the travel logistics, selected sessions to attend, and even had a game plan for meeting other writers and talking to agents and editors. I had every base covered!
So how the hell did I forget business cards??? Ugh.
Within five minutes of being at the conference, I saw people exchanging writer business cards, and quietly cursed myself. I spent the next three days scribbling on rips of paper, or giving people my day-job card while explaining… yeah, you get it.
I wouldn’t make the same mistake for this year’s conference, and the design popped right into my head. Character drawings. I wanted drawings of several of my characters for the backsides (MOO lets you load dozens of different back images). There was, of course, one problem with my plan: the drawings.
I live kind of out-of-the-way in NJ, and don’t know a ton of people in the area. I reached-out to several promising illustrators through SCBWI, but it never worked-out. I could have drawn them myself – I used to draw a lot more than I do now, and they are my characters after all – but I get tired of my own vision, honestly. I was ready to see how someone else would see these characters, and one Saturday morning this past April, the universe provided me that chance.
On weekends, I write in the mornings at the local coffee shop (no, I’m not ‘that guy’. It’s just about getting up and being productive.) On the afore-mentioned April Saturday, their wifi was being a jerk (so was I because I wanted to Twitter instead of write), so I asked the barista about it. She reset it, but it didn’t help. “That’s OK. I should be working, anyway,” I said.
The word ‘working’ is the important one, there. That’s the word that prompted her to eventually ask me what I work on when I come in. When I answered, she shared she also writes, and is an artist. Now, if you read the previous paragraphs instead of just scrolling down to look at the pictures, you’ll remember I needed an artist. A short-time later, I offered her the job.
Thank you, universe. You rock.
Flash forward several months, A LOT of tea and coffee, some great collaboration, and a tremendous new friendship, and I have my drawings.
AND. I. LOVE. THEM.
NO. SERIOUSLY. I. LOVE. THEM.
Whimsical, adorable, weird, with a hint of creepy where creepy should be. Perfect.
How much do I love them? It’s Sunday at noon, on Father’s Day. I’ve been up since 7AM’ish, sipping green tea and working in Photoshop to prep the images for use as business cards (black background, added gray shading, added character names). That’s after working on them for three hours last night after getting home from Art All Night, Trenton. I even watermarked the low res versions for this post – which I never do, but these’re mine mine mine! Now I’m going to call my dad, and then go out and buy picture frames for these bad-boys.
More Thank You’ing
I’ve already said it to her in person, but a HUGE thank you to the artist JRK – who wishes to remain anonymous on the interwebs, whose arm I nearly had to twist to get her to sign these, and who, when she reads this, will make a face and probably text me that she hates me – for stepping out of her comfort zone and taking these on. They’re not what I pictured, not how I would have drawn them, and EXACTLY how they should be.