Thursday, March 10, 2005


Well, the Whidbey Island Writer's Conference for 2005 has come and gone. I can't imagine ever missing it. But what a drain. I felt like an exposed nerve the entire time I was there.

The first day was a blast. I did one of the Thursday pre-c0nference workshops. This year they offered a YA workshop, lead by Randy Powell. Randy was a terrific leader for this workshop, having written 7 successful YA novels. I was impressed by how thoroughly he had read everyone's work. He made many comments and was obviously familiar with each story. I've attended workshops where that wasn't the case.

An example of a disappointing one would be that writer's digest memoir one I did last year, where the woman leading the course couldn't remember any of our stories. She did nothing to encourage the other participants to read and critique each other, and she solicited her services, trying to get us to pay her for additional consultations after the course.

Anyway, Randy did a great job. Everyone's stuff was so good. I felt like I was in wonderful company, and I got some good feedback. The experience was exhausting. Seven pieces in one day!

Most of us were staying at a retreat house near Coopville. The house was an enormous, beautiful home with huge kitchen, fireplace, hot tub, gardens, view of water. It was very inspiring.

Once the conference began, I climbed onto an emotional roller coaster for the rest of the week. Up one minute, full of self-doubt and self-loathing the next. "What am I doing here where all of these talented people are?" I was sure they could see that I did not belong.

One particular moment stands out as a bad one for me. I met Robert Ferrigno that week. He was one of the speakers at my fireside chat on mystery and suspence writing. We were both surprised to find out that we had lived in Belmont Shore at the same time in the 1990s. Although we did not seem to know any of the same people, we both had strong, detailed memories of what that small town within a big city beach community was like.

When I first met him, I could not recall any books by him that I had read. I later realized that he had written Horse Latitudes. When it first came out, I recall that Dodd's bookstore in Belmont Shore was really hyping it as a first novel of a local writer. I read it over 15 years ago.

Later, I asked him to autograph a book I had bought. Then, during the book signing hour, I sat down at his table and tried to make small talk. I felt as comfortable with him as I did with just about anyone else there, and I figured that we had some common ground. He seemed cordial but reserved. It was clear he didn't want to talk to me. I looked away from him for a moment, and, when I looked back in his direction, he was rolling his eyes and shaking his head. Was he doing this because he wanted me to leave, or was I being too sensitive? Then a romance writer with big hair sat down at the table. He said to her, "I'm so glad you came over here. I was so bored." Okay. I can be kind of thick at times, but now I got it. Ciao!

Talk about feeling rejected! All the self-doubts come out at a time like that. Is it because I'm middle-aged? Am I that boring? Blah, blah, blah.

Other parts of the conference were fantastic. I got to go to a couple of panels where Jane Yolen was a participant. The speakers were all pretty wonderful. At the house where I was staying, people were talking animatedly about characters they had created as though they were real. In fact, they were real. It was great.

I also had a chance to talk to an agent who represents writers of children's books. She loved my story idea and said she would be interested in reading my book once I've polished it up. Does she say that to everyone?

Once I got into my car, though, to come home, I kept seeing Robert Ferrigno rolling his eyes.

Writer's conferences are definately something I will continue to attend.