The writer’s conference was, if not great, then pretty darn good. I took an excellent rewriting course from Earlene Fowler, author of a series of eleven mysteries. She’s not my favorite writer, but I’ve always had an alarming suspicion that I write like her. Something about her prose reminds me of my own awkwardness.
But it turns out that she IS just like me, in other ways, too. She’s confident in front of a group, self-deprecatingly humorous, and kind of a spazz. And she’s mostly left-brained. Pulling the writing out of herself, the first draft, is like pulling candy from a five year old. It’s hard for her to make that switch to right-brained creativity. She prefers to organize things. She was a great secretary (reminded me of how much I like to dispatch, which is like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle). She loves lists.
So rewriting is her strength, and she’s studied how she does it over the years. She gave us LISTS! Of things to do while rewriting! It was a beautiful thing. I went in not expecting to learn very much, and I was overwhelmed with information. And excitment!
Suddenly, finishing the book doesn’t seem so hard and scary. I’ve known from the beginning, when I made the conscious decision not to rewrite as I went along, that this would only mean major revision at the end. Now I’m looking forward to it. Yet another jigsaw puzzle. (Okay. I only like metaphorical jigsaw puzzles – if I had to do an actual one I’d yawn myself to death.)
That class was the thrilling part of the conference. I’ve never been to one before, and I didn’t know what to expect. What I DIDN’T expect were all the sighing, religious women. At least they seemed that way – as the speakers spoke, they nodded, mmmm-hmmm-ing right along with the speaker. Uh-huh. Mm-hum. Yeah. One woman in the back of the room mmm-hmmm-ed herself so hard it came out as a loud squeak and we all swiveled to look at her. That woman was astonishingly irritating, I have to say. She touted the glorious powers of Powerpoint (!) and then went on to just TALK. And talk and talk and talk. This class was led by a stunning teacher, Daniel Houston-Davila, and it was about writing cross-culturally. I had questions. I didn’t have time to get them answered, though, since Old Girl kept on yakkin’.
Walking out of the classroom, she cornered me.
“Why did the teacher keep talking to you? It was like he was directing all his comments at you. Do you know him?”
“No,” I said, “But I talked to him earlier today.”
“You look pretty white to me. Why were you in this class? It was a class for writing cross-culturally.”
Shock at this point.
“I’m a lesbian.” I said. “I had some questions about writing and crossing that divide that I thought the class might address.”
“Oh. I was sexually abused by women when I was young.”
At this point, my eyebrows just stopped working and I had to manually bring them down to their proper positions. This was like me saying, “I have a boyfriend,” and her replying, “I was sexually abused by men when I was young.” Holy crap. What do you say to that? To a stranger who’s just pissed off?
We were approaching my little mother at this point, so I merely tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Good luck to you, then.” She smiled sweetly and traipsed off.
Speaking of my little mama, I have to say this:
At the end of one of the classes, I was waiting for her to join me at the cafeteria. We had attended separate classes, and I was sure when I saw her teacher arrive at the cafeteria that she would soon follow.
I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Fifteen minutes later, I was frantic. Did she get lost? Was she ill? How would staff find me? That’s when I saw strolling toward me, Daniel Houston-Davila in tow (the one person I hoped to button-hole and meet at the conference). Not only was she clever enough to meet him, but she had spent the last fifteen minutes passing out her cards (she’s a book reviewer for a local paper) to new authors. She couldn’t get away from them!
My mother. The networker. It was awesome.
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