I’ve been debating for the last two days, whether or not to write about my weekend at the Writing Workshop of Chicago. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m some expert just because I forked out some cash and sat in five seminars all day this past Saturday. I mean, it would be nice if you all just went along with my delusion that I’m an expert all the time no matter what I do.
After great deliberation, and getting much needed sleep, I decided, eh what the hell. Hardly anyone reads this anyway. So without further ado, here are a few highlights from my weekend at the Writing Workshop of Chicago, 2016.
1). Even if it is May everywhere else in Illinois, you still probably need a freaking winter coat in Chicago. Because, when you leave St. Louis in your tank top and flip-flops, there’s a good chance that by the time your train stops in Chicago, it will be 34 degrees and raining and you’ll find yourself flagging down a cab sans coat, wearing a tank top and flip flops, outside Union Station.
2) Despite what you may have heard about literary agents, none of them seem to have hinged jaws created specifically for the purpose of swallowing whole the authors of shitty query letters and first chapters told in first person present tense.
3) Even though I did not see any agents unhinging their jaws to eat wayward authors, it is still a really terrible idea to pitch a story that you haven’t actually finished writing yet. I feel like that one shouldn’t even have to be pointed out, but there you go.
4) Do not wear high heeled boots to walk around Navy Pier. Okay, you’re now thinking that’s probably something I shouldn’t have to be told. Whatever smartasses, okay. You get a point.
5) Be prepared to edit. Edit, edit, edit. And when you think you’re done editing, you should probably edit some more.
6) Even if it’s only 40 degrees outside and raining, apparently the Congress Hotel is going to have it’s fucking air conditioning on, so go ahead and just buy a coat to wear to the conference.
7) For the love of God, quit finding colorful ways to say the word said. Like, seriously. Stop it. This isn’t just advice I’ve loved forever, it is also advice given by literary agent Abby Saul at the conference. Characters can just say stuff. They don’t have to always be huffing or screaming or proclaiming or whatever. Just cut it out already.
8) If you feel intellectually in-tune with a person, you may have weird feelings toward them. Like even if they are of a gender/sex that you aren’t traditionally attracted to and even if they supposedly have a hinged jaw made for eating people who unwittingly step into their space and spew one too many adjectives, at some point, they may say something like, “It’s okay for characters to just say things,” and then you feel weird and wonder if this is something you have to talk to your husband about.
9) Now that I really think about it, there was a huge period of time where I didn’t see any agents at all. So I’m not entirely secure in my assertion that none of them offed any of the writers at the conference.
10) If you’re not writing some kind of Young Adult Urban Fantasy Romantic Paranormal Something-or-Other, you’re pretty much screwed. Don’t worry, I am too. So at least you’re in good company.
11) If you want to hear from and about a lot of people who have been exactly where you are, and have persevered, a writing conference is a great place to go.
12) Taking a break from your own brain is a good idea.
13) Keep a notebook with you everywhere you go, because the best inspirations might not come from the conference itself. It might come from the guy on the train who won’t quit talking/singing/hitting on girls, or the homeless guy who keeps asking your daughter where his baby is, or the grandmother giving out dating advice to strangers.
14) You should really figure out how to work the Twitter because apparently that’s a big damn deal in the literary world. Don’t ask me. I still can’t figure shit out on there.
15) There are a lot of us out there, and there’s room for all of us on the bookshelf. (You know, as long as you don’t use too many adverbs, start your story with the weather, or sound like a walking Thesaurus.)
Actually, I’m not at all comfortable with #2 right now. I just wasn’t following them sufficiently enough to make an absolute statement about
who what any of them ate for lunch.