To me, she is like an old friend… an acquaintance you catch up with over coffee every few years. Since our last meeting, her baby daughter grew into a toddler of two, keeping her from publishing fiction until now.
As I stepped through a back door and searched for an empty seat, Chazin started off with the comment…
“It can be dangerous to read too much bad stuff.”
I settled into a seat in the back and looked around the windowless room at the other 150+ people taking notes or leaning forward, waiting anxiously for that secret formula that would turn them into published writers.
Most of the attendees were white, under age 50, and female – almost five women to every man. They wrote on legal pads and spiral notebooks and slim PDA’s, using fountain pens or pencils or hi-tech wireless keyboards. The men mostly sat in the front rows, wearing pastel plaid or bold blue stripes, while the ladies favored shades of pink.
Then there was me, a smudge across all this gentle color, dressed head to toe in black.
The usual suspects were present. The graying woman in front who thought she could sell a 10,000 word essay to a publication for $10,000 (“but they pay $1 per word”); the fluffy blond who insisted on protecting all her work through the copyright office (“I heard this one editor in Boston stole this one idea…”); the college coed majoring in English who asked uberliterate questions and refered back to lingering incongruous symbolism (or was it incongruous lingering symbolism?); the retiree looking for a how-to manual on writing a memoir (“there’s got to be a right way to start”).
In a nutshell, here’s what I took away from the day-long event:
- Write everyday.
- Write some more.
- An essay is like an onion… it’s a layer… a slice of life… like a short story, but not fiction.
- Don’t preach.
- Be vulnerable.
- If you can write funny, you should immediately move to Hollywood where you can pretty much write your own ticket.
- Adverbs and adjectives are not your friends.
- When you read published work, you’re reading Draft #17.
- The best writer is a rewriter.