Saturday, January 31, 2009

Crazy lady in New York

So I made it into New York without any transportation troubles, and have made it through a fun day of free time and a full day of conference events. So far it's been fun. Some highlights of my days:

Friday: I get in on time (yay!) and walk 30 blocks to this specialty paper store I love. I'd asked the concierge about how long that distance was (hoping for an answer in miles) and she told me 30 minutes. Great, I said, I like to walk and can use the exercise. "But you might find it a little cold," she warned. I just laughed. After almost three straight weeks of Michigan temps below freezing, including a few days below zero, I laughed. It's in the 30s here, and by the time I reached my goal I was almost sweating.

Later that afternoon I head over to the "world's biggest store," the NYC branch of Macy's. I have a gift card, and some time to squander, so I wander the two floors of shoes. I find some on sale, to replace the nasty worn out clogs I use for bad weather. Yay! I defy any woman not to have her mood lifted by shoes on sale. On my way out, I see that the store has a special guest promoting a perfume. It's Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, whom I remember from the BBC series "Gormenghast" in 2000, but who's better known now for Showtime's "The Tudors." There's a big crowd, but I decide to swing by to see if he's as good-looking in person as he is on TV. I don't get more than 20 feet away, but it's close enough: the answer is yes. (I later meet a guy at the conference who saw Renee Zellweger entering the stage door at Letterman this week. He said yes, she looked good in person, too.) I've been in New York less than six hours and I have a celebrity spotting! I meet my roommate for dinner and have really good Indian food to celebrate.

Saturday: The conference starts. It's a lot bigger than I remember, and that's because there are about 50% more attendees (over 1000) than the last one I came to, in 2006. I have trouble locating my friends, so I sit wherever for the first session. It's an excellent speech by writer/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka, who shows a video at the end that has the whole audience screaming with laughter. Next it's editor sessions, where individual editors tell you about the kinds of things they're looking for (or not). You get to choose which editors' sessions to attend, and I usually look for someone from a house that publishes what I tend to write, which is fantasy. Luckily, this year I didn't end up with any editors who said, "Oh, I've done so much fantasy lately I'm kind of sick of it, so I'd rather not see any."

We have a decent lunch (chicken, of course, but not too dry), and the lunch speaker is entertaining, regaling us with tales of how it took him 12 years to develop from wannabe writer into a writer with a book sold. The afternoon speaker is a legendary editor, Richard Jackson, who gives us an inspiring talk filled with literary references and encouragements to make art. We end up with a wine-and-cheese social, which is nice; although the wine was $12 a glass, I made up for it by eating so much cheese and fruit that I didn't have to go out for dinner.

Although these conferences are so big that there really isn't a chance to meet editors or agents, we get an announcement around 3 pm that there is an agent here who's willing to listen to people's pitches. I don't skip my next session to get in line, and by the time I get out at 4 pm, I see the line is 25 people deep. I go to the next talk, and when I come at at 5 pm, the line is still 25 people deep. I have wine and cheese, and by 7 pm the line is still a good 20 people deep. I didn't even try to get in line—I figured if you're the 100th pitch, how is that any different from sending an e-mail? Why spend all that time in line? I'd just feel silly by the time I got up there. (A similar reasoning as why I didn't bother to get perfume autographed by an actor—I don't like feeling silly.)

So all in all, it's been a good conference. I have some good leads for submissions, and some inspiration to keep trying. (Oh, and I got a lot of compliments on my blouse, which I made.) Hopefully, tomorrow's speakers will be just as interesting, but I'll report more on that later.

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