For the past two days I have been in Cincinnati, attending the first annual Writer’s Digest University Editors Intensive Event. For those of you who don’t know, Writer’s Digest is the definitive magazine for writers. It is published by FW Media, which also publishes Writer’sMarket and Guide to Literary Agents, the two writer’s bibles when it comes to getting published.
Among other things, the conference promised to teach me how to identify potential agents and write an effective one-page query letter for the purposes of soliciting an agent for my book. While it delivered on both counts, the most valuable part of the conference was a 30-minute review of the first 50 pages of my manuscript by one of the WD editors. My meeting occurred this afternoon and there was good news and bad news. The editor confirmed that I have good writing skills and commented that I have led a very interesting life, which is in my favor when trying to get a memoir published, however he also thought I had a lot of work to do on the manuscript before it is ready to submit to an agent. Although he loved the opening of my book, he recommended I completely rework the next four chapters, condensing them to one much shorter chapter.
It is a bit disheartening to think that I now have to go back and cut out so much of the writing that I sweated blood over, but I know the editor’s suggestions are very valid and these changes will make my book much stronger. I now realize that I went into this process with unrealistic expectations. Since I have been writing for years, I thought I could crank out the book in just a few months and be published in a year or so. I was so wrong. Someone commented today that, “Books are not written, they are rewritten,” and I am just now beginning to understand how much truth there is in this statement. By the time I finish revising, I will probably be sick of this book. Even so, it will be a labor of love. No matter how hard it is, I can’t stop now.
Another great thing that came out of the event was the writers I met. Being in the company of others who are so committed to the craft of writing was incredibly energizing and I feel like the friendships made this weekend will endure. After the conference ended several of us went to dinner, then hunted down the nearest book store, where we stood at the entrance and envisioned our respective books already sitting on the shelves. Totally fun. I’ve made a great contact with one particular writer who is an editor by profession, and she has agreed to edit my book in return for my help to bring her into the 21st century, electronically.
Before going our separate ways, we shared a group hug in the lobby of the hotel. But this wasn’t a forever kind of goodbye, because we’ve decided to form a support group through Facebook, which will allow us to stay in touch, exchange chapters of our ongoing work, and offer constructive criticism on our respective manuscripts. Since I have not been able to identify a similar group in my home town of Sarasota, this new peer group will undoubtedly become very important to me; already I feel some of them are soul mates whom I was destined to meet.
Upon returning to the hotel I decided to pack so that I could hit the road early in the morning. Unfortunately, I discovered that the charger for my camera battery was missing from my camera bag. When I checked the camera, the battery was also missing. I carry a spare battery in my backpack and it was still there, which makes no sense, because when I take the battery out of my camera to charge it, I always replace it with the fully charged battery from my pack in order to alternate use of the two batteries. The fact that the battery was missing from the camera leads me to believe that it was stolen from my room, but I am in an extended stay hotel where the rooms are not cleaned every day and my “do not disturb” sign has been hanging on my door since arriving. I really don’t know what to believe. It is possible (though I think unlikely) that I left it at the hotel in Clearwater Beach where I stayed last week. I will call them in the morning to see if they found it, but staying there was a pretty miserable experience to begin with, so even if I did leave it, I hold out little hope of it being returned.
It was definitely a day of ups and downs, but perhaps more ups than downs. I can handle the writing revisions and the occasional self-doubt about my ability to write. It’s the loss of the camera charger and battery that concerns me most. Did I really leave it plugged in at my previous hotel and walk away without it? It’s hard to imagine this, because I always make a last minute tour of a hotel room before departing, checking especially for any appliances that might have been plugged in. On the other hand, I can hardly make an accusation that something was stolen unless I know for sure that I had it before checking in to my current hotel. Sometimes I wonder if I am losing my mind. Can senility start at age 56?