Conference Hound

BloodhoundI enjoyed the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, got some good feedback on my work, met some  interesting people, learned a few things about myself and the writing life.

It wasn’t the best conference I’ve ever been to. There were lots of fairly elementary topics, though it never hurts to review. It was a relatively cheap conference and I enjoyed the scenery.

The scenery was especially stunning along Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, or “PCH” as the locals call it, or, as the cognoscente referred to it, “The Pat Brown Memorial Organ Donor Highway,” because of the insane drivers on the hairpin turns who seem unable to color within the lines. It’s one of the most beautiful highways on the planet and cowboys in pickup trucks and SUV’s are speeding on the verge of losing control, for reasons I can’t fathom. If they were in a hurry why didn’t they take the I-5 or the 101? (In California, highway names are much more than identifiers. They are always prefixed with a definite article, “The 5,” The 101,” and so on, I think to allude to the deeply shared cultural importance of driving. )

I’m a writing-conference hound. Every year I turn my vacation into a conference adventure. It beats walking around a strange city to gawk at architecture and eat in overpriced restaurants, for no reason at all. The conferences are an excuse to travel, a chance to learn, and I like talking with writers, who are consistently more interesting than other classes of people one often meets while traveling.

However, I did cancel my reservation for the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in February. (  )  I had signed up earlier on the prospect of meeting a flock of agents there. I’ve got five novels in the can, working on the sixth, and it became apparent  that I needed to start getting serious about marketing. However, since I signed up for SFO, I have, improbably, become “agented” and I want to give that situation a chance to blossom without making things complicated. There’s always time to go back to the well later.

Anyway, the SFO conference is not so much a workshop situation as a “writing fair” that features professional connections (much like the AWP), and besides, I’m California’d-out for a while. Plus, the SFO Museum of Modern Art, one of my top favorites, is closed for reconstruction, removing another draw for visiting.

So now I’m looking at a series of online conferences at ( ) They look well organized, have good reviews, are workshop-focused and cost only $225 for five days, with professional and peer feedback, and, as always, the chance to meet editors and agents. I’m tempted by their upcoming conferences on the mystery genre. I workshopped a mystery with some success at Mendocino. Another conference is on the literary genre (a contradiction in terms). I do have a novel in a drawer which I think counts as literary. This would be one way to find out.

The risk-to-benefit ratio of Backspace looks low. Timing will make the decision. I need to get back to my androids, finish that sequel, before I dive headlong in to revisions of earlier works. Backspace is a revolving series of conferences so if I miss the upcomings this fall, they’ll be back in the spring.

Right now, my androids are all in “sleep mode.”  Like them, I can’t remember anything about anything. Tomorrow I start the long, slow process of re-awakening them, and myself.


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