Monday, July 23, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Pathetic

This past Saturday, I attended the Harriette Austin Writers Conference, held on the campus of the University of Georgia. It was my first secular conference in awhile. I could tell I was in a whole different place as the man sitting next to me at lunch spent the entire hour telling me about his work-in-progress. According to him, it is a valuable memoir of the most successful woman in the adult entertainment industry ever. I know when the lunch conversation involves the word "concubine" scattered in frequently, I'm not at ACFW anymore.

On the good side, a couple of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) members were there and taught classes--agent Chip MacGregor and author Lisa Samson. I introduced myself to Lisa as a fellow ACFW member, and she was kind enough to say my name sounded familiar. Oh, joy! Could it be from the ACFW email loop? Could she possibly have visited the Queen? Well, probably not, but still it was nice. And it was great to see her books displayed prominently.

And now for the pathetic. I am just so smooth at these events! First I have to tell you that I did not approach this conference with great enthusiasm. Remember a week or so ago, I mentioned going to a secular conference where I became so discouraged that I almost quit writing? It was the Harriette Austin conference. Now, if you ever consider going to it, don't hold the snarky things I've said about it so far against it. It's really a nice conference, especially if you're looking for something small and affordable. One nasty (mean, vicious, cruel...okay, I'll stop now) editor ruined the whole thing for me. Still, I had bad memories, and since I had to leave my house at 6 a.m. Saturday morning to get there in time for registration, I arrived pretty grumpy.

Registration was a bear. After 20 minutes in line, the man ahead of me said, "Oh well. They say that suffering is good for writers." I responded, "Then this conference should do us worlds of good." He sort of sidled away from me--as far as he could and keep his place in line.

Then there was the time I was standing with a group of folks who were waiting to go in for manuscript evaluations. I didn't sign up for a critique this time. Not after my last wonderful experience. I was in the vicinity waiting for someone, and a first-timer asked me about the evaluation procedure. I promise, I had gotten my act together since registration. I told her about the critiques in a very upbeat, encouraging manner. Really I did.

Still, she sighed and said, "There must be an easier profession. I keep thinking of all the time I spend on this novel, and all the other ways I could be spending my time." I nodded. "I know what you mean. I keep thinking about the quilts and the jewelry I could make, and the knitting I could do." She looked at me. "I was thinking about working for the poor or volunteering at a homeless shelter." I coughed a little. "Sure. That would be good, too."

Like I said. Smooth.