Writers who need writers are the luckiest people in the world, and I just spent three days with about six hundred writers, agents, publishers and editors. At the core they are all writers. I can’t tell you how many times we talked for ten or fifteen minutes before I discovered the writer was also one of the above. Each time I would think, but these are nice people, they actually want to find authors to represent or publish! Where are the ogres we are so afraid of? As a matter of fact, probably a third of those I talked with at the table or in the hall turned out to be there presenting, interviewing, and actively looking for talent. Someone remarked it was the only conference he had been to where presenters, exhibitors and member mingled. Come to think of it, that has been my experience, too.
I’m hesitant to single anyone out because there were too many contacts to mention all, but you know I will. One of the first I met was Lynn Price, Behler Publications, sitting next to me at lunch. She is an award-winning author as well. She would give the rousing closing keynote speech Sunday. More about Lynn later.
Saritza Hernandez was just another fascinating writer who turned out also to be an e-pub agent with L. Perkins Agency. She served on the experts panel discussion, which was worth the price of the conference.
While getting a breath of fresh air on the patio, someone spoke to me in a soft, lilting Southern voice. She asked the usual, “what genre do you write?”. I gave the elevator pitch I have been formulating, “Short stories, Southern literature mostly.”
She told me she writes Southern novels, and had a new release, “Momma’s Comfort Food.” It’s a novel, but peppered with food and recipes because readers want to know how to make the dishes that figure in the story. We talked about Southern food and the tendency of those not from the South to not realize this is how we REALLY talk, think, and turn a phrase. After that Rhett LeVane could not hide her excitement about a Southern novel (Catfish Alley) of a new author she recently reviewed for Southern Literary Review. Be still my heart! So after Googling Rhett, I must add several of her books to my Kindle library, as well as the new novelist she highly recommends.
Joan Levy and I have a habit of snagging solo conference attendees and bringing them to our table before they can think. After all, that’s how we met. One of the first was Cristina Kessler, writer of nine children’s books published by Penguin. She inserts various African and other languages into the stories so the children can learn a little of another language. Cristina and her husband lived in various African countries for twenty-eight years while with the Peace Corp and Care America. They live in the Virgin Islands now.
This is where publisher Lynn Price comes in. She was at our table again sitting next to Cristina. She has asked to see her new travel guide and a couple of other young adult books of hers which are now out of print. I’ve heard several stories of this nature that occurred at the conference. It doesn’t hurt that Cristina’s book won first place in RPLA for non-fiction travel.
At closing ceremony Cristina won free registration for next year’s conference in the drawing today. She was on the fence about next year, but not now. Is it luck or did she make her own luck. Maybe a little of each.
Linda terBurg, what a warm, interesting person. Linda is a marketing specialist I had the opportunity to sit by a couple of times. Her presentation was inspiring. If only I had something ready to market.
I know I am sprinkling in a mix of writers and professionals, but that was the nature of the conference. Kate LeSar is an instant friend type. She was published in the collections book and won an RPLA award. It was great to celebrate with her at our table. Kate has trained nonliterate midwives in Afghanistan, taught health care workers in Calcutta and run a nursing home for Armenians in Boston. We had a lot to talk about there.
I have to stop somewhere, so it will be here. At the awards banquet they called the name Helen Parramore for an RPLA award. I know her! Well, not really. I have yellowed copies of her “My Word” columns (longer letters to the editor) from years back, but we’ve never met. She’s a retired educator is all I know about her besides what she reveals in her op ed pieces. I’ve been her biggest unknown fan. Today I searched for backs of heads (which was the only view I got of her last night) and of course, checked name tags. I ran into a couple of people who know her. It was one of those “she was just here” things. Alas, we never connected. I think she will get the word though that she’s a rock star to me. If I remember right, she moved from the house with the purple door, but I hope her new home has one, too. It suits the Helen I know and don’t know.
Come to think of it, a purple door suits most writers I met the last few days. Until next year. . .