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Archive for October, 2011

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. . .

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Fall was in the air as the temperatures dropped for the first time yesterday. Bonnie, Rebecca and I headed to the country, to Biggar Antiques in Lake Alfred, Florida. A relaxing afternoon at their Halloween festival was just what we needed.

But first, we were hungry. It was after 2 p.m. and none of us had eaten lunch. A quick bite, and we’d hit the road. Quick, but charming, Bonnie and I requested, with good menu choices, no fast foods, but food fast, because the antique store would close by 5 p.m. and the shop was an hour away. Mimi’s fit the bill. We grabbed a table outside in the breeze and shade and ordered drinks from a waifish waitress with a whispering French accent. When we ordered, Rebecca asked if the French fries were good.

“I don’t know,” the waitress whispered, “I don’t eat here.”

Okay.

We made our choices and waited, and talked. Rebecca’s friends called and asked us to come over to Elephant Bar up the street and eat with them. They would have drinks waiting. It was tempting. We could see Elephant Bar from the patio where we sat, but our food would be there any minute.

At some point we realized Rebecca was now in the sun and 45 minutes had passed. We hailed the young man who showed us to our table and asked for our waitress. Shortly she, silently appeared with her order pad.

“Hello, what I can get for you?”

“How about the food we ordered 45 minutes ago?” Bonnie said.

The waif in black whispered something unintelligible and smiled.

“No, forget it. We are leaving. We have to be somewhere,” Rebecca said as we gathered our things and got up. And she was suddenly gone. We go in to tell them we are leaving and someone came out of the kitchen with food and asked if we wanted it to go. NO! Then she explained she was the regional manager on site for “coaching.”

“No charge, just let us bag the food for you.” Which she began to do.

Now we have only food, so stop at Albertsons’s for bottled drinks, hit I-4 and get on our way. The food is cold, and Rebecca is trying to eat and drive.

“My crotch is vibrating,” Rebecca says, and grabs her phone. Now she is eating, texting and driving. But we make it to Lake Alfred about 45 minutes before closing, having no time to enjoy the country scene after we leave I-4.

The shop is lovely as ever in the old downtown building. The gifts and antiques are tasteful and beautifully displayed. Best of all, the owner, Mrs. Biggar and her daughter-in-law Karen are there with Karen’s infant son, the one they waited ten years for. He was adorable.  We learned chaos preceded us. Mrs. Biggar had cut her arm and was bleeding badly. Karen shed her Halloween costume to take her to the hospital. They were back when we arrived and doing fine, but feeling a bit harried.

Bonnie found a LOT of stuff and I found the most beautifully crafted silver bracelet I could not leave there. Did I say their prices are unbelievably reasonable for such quality and good design whatever the product?

We decide to look for a coffee shop as we leave because that’s just what we need to relax us. We would have to hit I-4 to find one. Rebecca is talking to a friend on the phone when Bonnie points to the sky.

A “J,” she says, gazing into the sky. “E” . . . “S” . . . “U”. . . Bonnie recites as the miles tick on. Bonnie doesn’t take her eyes off the sky. Then she begins singing “Jesus Loves Me.” We join in. Rebecca’s friend on the phone asks if we have been drinking. If only.

Grandma, do you still have the tin full of buttons I used to play with when I was little?” Rebecca had her grandmother in South Dakota on the phone. Bonnie continued to watch the fading Jesus. The antique buttons in the store had brought back memories. The buttons Rebecca remembered would be waiting for her on Grandma’s demise, Grandma promised. They had a charming conversation over the next few miles.

“We’ve got to find a gas station,” Rebecca says.

“Got to be Shell or Mobile,” Bonnie said.

“Is the light about to come on?” I asked. I had missed earlier conversation due to road noise and sitting in the back.

“It’s been on since before Bonnie started seeing Jesus in the sky,” Rebecca said, “She wouldn’t pay attention to me. Now it’s almost to the end of the red.”

Jesus is fading.

I-4 is packed, no proper service station appears. I volunteer to buy gas at ANY station, but Rebecca decides we can make it to Altamonte exit. Did I mention Bonnie and I now have very queasy stomachs? We are car sick or have food poisoning from the restaurant, so a Coke and motion sickness pill (just in case) become as important as gas.

We arrived at the station on fumes, grab Cokes and head to drug store for motion sickness pills for Bonnie. A more normal feeling began to creep in our tummies after a few swigs of Coke and we made it home.

I wouldn’t take the world for my relaxing day in the country. I like the “things” in my life to have purpose or memories. Every time I look at my beautiful silver bracelet our incredible day will all come back to me and I mean “incredible” in the most literal way.

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