An Editor’s Life: Conference Textures


I do it every other year, and every other year, it’s completely different.

I’m talking about the Pennwriters Annual Conference. Every other year, it’s held in my backyard of Pittsburgh. I get to sleep at home, escape early from the chaos, and have some good decompression time. And I drive a lot. Half hour each way, but so totally worth it. Plus, driving down on Saturday, Octane was rocking hard and the music was blasting and it was a super way to start the day.

Anyone who’s been a repeat offender at Pennwriters (or any other convention, I’m sure) will agree with this: even when the faces are mostly the same, the conference experience never is. There’s always something new to explore, someone new who makes a difference.

Two years ago, I spent most of the conference sitting in a hallway, wrangling authors who were going to pitch agents and acquiring editors. I had a ball, don’t get me wrong, and not just because a number of my conference buddies amused me by telling me that they hadn’t realized I was even in attendance. And, as always, I learned a lot.

This year, it was totally different. I couldn’t deliver the SIX baskets I’d collected for the Chinese Auction until Friday morning, so as soon as I tossed kids out the door and onto the school bus, it was into the car to get the baskets set up.

I spent the morning doing that, helping my friend and subcontractor Mary get all the baskets together. We had another Susan helping us and it was friendly and companionable and comfortable. What a super way to ease into the event.

A month out, I’d planned to skip the two lunches the conference offered: one for only those who’ve achieved Published status and the other was for the unwashed masses. I hate class structure like that, and I think that in this age of transparency and a changed publishing model, the need for this structure is over. So I’d expected to have a quiet lunch by myself in the hotel restaurant.

But I mentioned that I was skipping the organized lunches and talks to a friend I meet with monthly. And suddenly, I had a lunch date.

Fast forward to the conference. I’m sitting in a chair, waiting for my friend, and … someone walks up. She’s going to have lunch by herself. Or… she was. She joins me.

A minute later, there’s still no sign of my friend. Good thing because Mary shows up with a buddy, one of the best storytellers I’ve ever met.

And lunch for one became five. It was not a quiet lunch. Not even close.

That’s how the weekend went. Good people around me at all times. Some were new faces. Some were old. Some were connections I’d made over ten years ago in an entirely different venue. But I never felt alone, never felt lonely or lost or ignored, even when I was sitting by myself.

I gave my first workshop. It needs some tweaking and probably broken into two different sessions altogether. But I’m also booked for next month to give it again. I was asked to do an online workshop and while I think that may not come to be — my credentials seemed to ultimately be disappointing, since I’m not an acquiring editor — at least I was asked.

Someone asked me where I see myself in five years. I’ve been thinking about that. I see myself doing more of this. More talks. More networking. More editing. More success.

That was the texture of this year’s conference. Last time, it was about helping others calm their nerves, about finding them time for expanded opportunities. This time, it felt like I’ve been waiting for it to feel.

My favorite line of the weekend? “I’ve been seeing this West of Mars everywhere, it feels like.”

YES. Hey, did I tell you I have editing dates open this summer?


1 Comment

  1. Dana Griffin

    May 25, 2015 7:17 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed your conference. Each time I attended Thrillerfest in New York City, I left feeling more motivated to work on my story.

    I hope your workshop generates some business for you. You deserve it.

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