“The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness.”
– Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
I arrived at my hotel for the second time that day, Thursday. I was still unsure of my purpose. Was I here to pitch book ideas? Was I here to make connections? Was I here to learn everything my simple brain can absorb, organize that knowledge into a rough strategy for world domination, then—once home—turn that rough strategy into an active process of world domination? I feel it important to take this moment to point out a philosophy that has served me well: if you’ve more than one choice about what you can accomplish in any given situation, go for all of them. If you follow this bit of advice you will go far, young padawan (no wordpress, this is not a misspelling it is proper and apt, meaning: Jedi apprentice. Why don’t you go watch a movie sometime? It might serve you better than constantly judging my spelling against your—clearly—inferior understanding of pop culture). As with all good advice, this bit is accompanied by a caveat: disregard if all indications point to the possibility that more than one objective would serve to be more of a pain in your ass than anything else. I decided that while I probably wouldn’t commit to all three at this point, I would keep an open mind…and the third one sounded pretty great. But enough of this nonsense, I had a meet and greet to attend.
It was my understanding—my naïve understanding—that I would be attending a conference filled with people who wanted to hear my book pitches, that every where I turned there would be another captive and eager ear which I could bend with my home spun charm. It turns out, that if one attends a conference of writers; the company in which one finds oneself is a cross-section of the world’s most self-absorbed and impatient ass-holes. That is to say, this place was filled with people just like me. In most cases, it is a delight to find kindred spirits—unless the thing you’ve in common with the other spirit is an ugly reminder of your own shallowness. Was that my purpose here, to learn about my short comings through the incessant cymbal-clang of my own proclivities? God, I hoped not. This is the nature of writers: we all have the greatest idea in the world, at this moment, and to allow some rube to go on and on about their—good, but not great—idea would be to do a disservice to said rube. Every moment said rube fills with their sub-par ideas is another moment my idea lives in anonymity…this, my friend, will never do. This is not to say that all writers are painful conversation companions, I met a dozen, or so, really fun people to whom I could talk. In my own life, my friends who are writers are fun people with whom to converse. I have a friend, name of Anya, who writes Young Adult Fiction; not the stuff that is popular right now. She doesn’t write about the latest schmuck who was born into vampirism, whose quest is to learn about his powers in some castle-academy, nestled cozily in some clunky, cumbersome post-apocalyptic dystopian back-drop (I’m looking at you, Collins). Rather, she writes very true and relatable stories about kids who’ve been left to parse issues that would be challenging at any age…world changing stuff. My friend Matt is another writer friend with whom I love talking. He is—not only—technically proficient (he edits this blog for me), he also writes poetry, that inspires —in me—heartbreak, and jealousy in one fell swoop.
At the conference I tried to pitch my books, but 75% of the folks were there to try and ride out this new wave of Fantasy/YA Fiction. To these people listening to a pitch about a children’s picture book—or a memoir of a church music leader who’s had his struggles with disillusionment, and wants to protect other music leaders from facing the same pitfalls—was much like listening to nails on a chalkboard, those pitches went over like a wet fart in church…real lead zeppelins of flatulence. On the bright side, I did learn to be a better listener. Though I only employ that particular skill when I feel it will make me look like a better person…which is rarely. All of these ideas churned in my mind during an hour long registration/meet and greet session. I was also vaguely aware of the fact that a madness of a very specific bent was creeping around the peripheral synapses of my mind…an alarming fact, given the fact that my brain was turning to an unstable pool of gray at a shocking rate. All of this was due to the fact that large buildings always feel like they’re moving under my feet. The Mark Hopkins Intercontinental is nothing, if not big.
I did meet one very interesting gentleman who is working on a book about how to not lose one’s identity to the corporate idol. We spoke at length about his interest in being a guest writer on this blog. He was, unfortunately, the exception who proves the rule.
I went back to room, shaken to the core. How would I survive a weekend with hundreds of soul-revealing, dream-crushing mirrors running amok in a five-star hotel high atop a hill in Fog City? Thank God my room had cable TV. Cable TV never asks me to examine myself, he just allows me to rest in his mind numbing arms, I fell asleep in his arms that night…Thursday night.