Had an awakening today while moderating a panel on “The Art of the Interview” at the James River Writers Annual Conference. Writing, no matter the form, is such a solitary endeavor. So being surrounded by talented wordsmiths inspired me to revise my 188,000-word manuscript.
Meeting with an agent tomorrow as part of the conference will inspire me more. That’s the beauty and power of such gatherings. You get the ear of some folks who could spin your life in a different direction. And if not, you still benefit from informative and engaging sessions with practical tips on honing some aspect of writing. My panelists: Phaedra Hise, who has mastered the art of writing about whatever she wants, from wicked workers to aircraft accidents; Harry Kollatz, Jr., the fedora-clad storyteller with an engaging style; and May-Lily Lee, host and senior producer of Virginia Currents, the longest-running statewide television series currently on air.
Good company indeed.
Phaedra is wrapping up her fifth book, this one on the hot topic of hoarding. She told me she had three weeks left to write two chapters. Immediately my long-neglected desire to be a published author poked me near my heart. Hard.
I had questions to ask so I pretended not to notice. But as I faced the audience of writers I saw myself in their eyes. I understood their rapt attention and a palpable hunger for answers, strategies and connections to make their writing dreams materialize.
Six years ago I began submitting the first draft of my coming-of-age manuscript about a gifted and sassy 12-year-old African-American Catholic student in Philadelphia during the 1970s. Twelve rejections and a trip to the now defunct Maui Writers Conference later, I packed it up. Rejection stings and festers. Fast forward to this summer and a conversation with author and educator Paul Fleisher, who told me he had 50 rejections before he published a book. You just can’t give up, he said. I nodded half-heartedly as something stirred near my heart. I pretended not to notice.
Today, I asked the speakers “Who are your interview role models and what do you admire about their approach?” As I listened, my brain tilted right (its creative side) then left (its rational side) and I made a pact to fulfill my desire to be a published author.
So after I accidentally ended the session 15 minutes early (oops!) I ambled into the hallway to study the list of agents attending. I ran into Maya Smart, a JRW board member (and friend) who told me as a moderator I could meet with an agent.
What is it that they say about putting your requests out into the universe?
I got the last spot with the agent I requested. And no matter what happens tomorrow, I will keep moving toward my goal. Word by word. Day by day.