Friday, November 12, 2010


Quiet on the blog front for oh-so-many reasons. Jon and I took a week plus to travel to Florida and check on his mom's property there. Between watching the sunrise over the river, feeding the turtles in the marina, and taking walks on balmy mornings, we oversaw the installation of new carpeting and a kitchen floor and spent hours in Bed, Bath & Beyond buying kitchen necessities like shelf paper, cutting boards and zesters. The home has no Internet access and we found ourselves reading more, going to bed earlier and calming down quite a bit. I can't remember when I've been so relaxed!

We got home in time to vote and now we're both ratcheted up to cope with the real world.

Last weekend we enjoyed attending the Montgomery County Community College Annual Writers Conference in Blue Bell, PA. The keynote speaker Friday night was Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize winning author of novels including The Yiddish Policemen's Union and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I have never heard a more inspirational, powerful, or entertaining speech in my entire life. Chabon, who claims to truly enjoy the Q&A format, asked himself questions, a most clever way to tell us what he wanted to tell us. His comments ranged from the value of an MFA program (for him, it meant everything) to where he gets ideas (the easiest thing about writing--they are everywhere!). I felt myself tearing up during his speech as he talked about the magic and agony of writing. If you ever get the opportunity to hear him, don't pass it up.

I sat on the agent's panel where the audience of writers lined up to ask questions of me and six other agents. The questions don't change too much in my experience, although sometimes they are quite bizarre. There seemed to be much interest in self-publishing and many of the questions related to that: I've self-published a novel--will publishers still be interested? (Yes and no. It depends on you, the topic of the book and how many copies have sold.) I want to write a very nichey book on real estate fraud. Should I self publish? (Yes.) Other questions included one about a cookbook memoir, a very hot topic now, even without star-quality.

The first question to the panel was rather blunt: You all say you get 100s of queries a week--why are you here? It seemed obvious to me that the author was sick and tired of being whined at by busy agents and wanted to know how we had the gall to take time off from reading queries to immerse ourselves in the rich literary stew of the writers conference. One of the agents answered in kind: "You need to know most queries are crap!" The rest of us added that you can only read queries for so many hours a day--you need to take frequent breaks to recharge and get your head on straight. A writers conference gives agents the perfect opportunity to talk shop, hear new ideas and maybe find new clients.

After the agent panal Jon and I and the other agents interviewed authors in the typical writers conference "speed dating" format.

The MCCC Writers Conference is a classy affair, always held in November. I encourage you to think about attending next year.