Just as the wildfires in Texas took up a large portion of the summer news in 2011, so the wildfires in Colorado and many parts of the western United States are making news this summer. I awoke this morning in Raton, New Mexico, to read reports on the news of falling meteors grounding fire fighting crews around the Colorado Springs/Buena Vista areas. Not knowing what to really make of that, I turn the television news off in the hotel room and help pack the travel bags back in the vehicle.
It is late afternoon when my family and I arrive in Mount Crested Butte. I thought it was hot when we left Texas, but temps in the 90’s and no A/C at elevations above 9,000 feet just didn’t seem right. I don’t complain, I am happy to finally be here. After unpacking, I find a box fan in a closet and set it to work circulating air in the bedroom. I decide to drive to the hotel where the Crested Butte Writers Conference begins in the morning and look around. Eventually I make it back to the town house; not quite a mile away from the hotel. I sit out on the living room deck watching the sunset and listening to my nephews and niece playing inside. I write a little more and begin to wonder whether or not an extrovert self will appear tomorrow or will the introvert within take over.
The Crested Butte Writers Conference (Day One)
Be confident, that was one of the first things one of the agents said on the agent/editor panel after attendees were welcomed by conference coordinators. Other advice I took away from the agent/editor panel included:
Be unique in your work.
The simpler the better.
Be prolific in your writing.
Conflict is very important.
Learn the marketplace.
Follow guidelines when submitting your work (don’t send too much information).
Self-published successes are the exceptions, not the rule.
Know the intention of putting your work online.
Agents do not want to hear that your book took 20+ years to write.
Know the difference between exclusive and non-exclusive rights.
Remember that every situation is different in regards to selling rights.
Always ask questions when it comes to rights.
Books should be between 30,000 and 100,000 words.
Later in the morning I learned a little more: (The In's and Out's of Digital Publishing - Sue Grimshaw)
Digital publishing is growing fast (could eventually consume 80% of the market).
Traditional publishing process is good because it vets the book to a higher quality.
Covers are very important (think about how you shop for a book), especially for debut authors.
The more exposure you get, the more opportunities you have to reach readers.
The Internet is a huge opportunity, make sure the publisher supports as many opportunities as possible.
Keep focused on promoting where you want to be.
eBook contracts are separate from printed book contracts.
Blogger quotes are huge, support them as much as possible.
And before noon I gain more information: (Things that Help and Things that Hurt your Chances of Getting Published - Jim Frenkel)
There are no absolutes.
It is easier to get short stories published.
Finish what you start no matter how good or bad you view it...
Do not feel compelled to stick to a length you are not comfortable with
Write what you love, not what the market trends want you to read
When starting out, approach one market at a time.
Multiple pitches are okay, but not multiple manuscript submissions at the same time.
Keep track of submissions in a database, and send followups politely.
Always start at the top of the marketplace, don’t sell yourself short.
Always keep a notebook for ideas
Be open to inspiration
Write one thing and move on to something else (you will get better as you write more things)
Do not set unrealistic goals
Do not wait for inspiration, spend some time every day writing
Be confident in what you have written
It is easier to get published if you have reviews
Agents can do a better job at negotiations with publishers
Blogging is necessary to build a platform
Balance your personal life, your writing, and your online social life
I did not make it to the afternoon sessions, but wish I had been able to. I should have scheduled an entire week here, several days to acclimate before arriving, and a few days after to assemble the information I gained here before I return home. Instead I find myself still a little wiped out from the drive and needing to relax a few hours before going with family to Blue Mesa Lake for dinner, and visiting the Gunnison Valley Observatory there after.
After having lunch with my mom, I arrived back at the town home and slept for a few hours. The rest of the family have gone on a rafting trip and I am anxious to hear what the kids thought about it.
Eventually they get back and have much to tell before we leave for dinner at Pappy’s on Blue Mesa Reservoir. As I drive alongside the reservoir I am shocked at how low it looks; perhaps more than I should have been. After having written about some of the lake levels in Texas dropping so badly, I realize Blue Mesa Reservoir is in the same condition here in Colorado. People we spoke with said there was little snowfall, hence why the lake was down. We were told about the snowfall being less back in Raton as well. What little I know about climate change says that the change isn’t precisely predictable on long-term timescales. Maybe generally, but not precisely. Maybe one day there will be a way to measure some type of signal that can be translated into what is going to happen next with the weather, but I doubt that dog will ever hunt. Like viticulture, meteorology is probably never going to be an exact science.
I am beginning to think that all observations, when it comes to the senses, are simply situation dependent. On my mother’s ranch there are four ponds. One time I climbed up this hill at night and sat listening to the frogs during the summer. One group would get really loud at one pond, then their voices would die down. Then at another pond others would do the same. This went on for several hours, from pond to pond.
This year, during the spring rains, two ponds were filled to capacity after being nearly dry the previous year, another filled up about half way, and the last remained about three quarters full (where it almost always fills up to). What do you think those frogs were communicating to one another this year?
“Strange weather,” said two frog ponds to a third. “Dry one year, raining too much the next.”
“Our pond is still only half full,” sang the frogs at the third pond. “It must be climate change!”
“Looks like the rains have returned to normal,” the frogs at the fourth pond communicated back. “We don’t know what you other frogs are singing so terribly about.”
This makes me think about the small vineyard I built one time with close to 50 vines on several trellis rows and the five rain gauges I had spaced across the site. I found that the amount of rainfall could vary even across this small area, sometimes considerably.
As I sit here on this wonderful deck eating a really good cheeseburger at Pappy’s and watching my nephews pointing toward the ground squirrels on the hillside, I find my brain searching for the fractal connections between small vineyard rain gauges, frog ponds, and large human-made reservoirs supplying water to cities.
How can I apply this to the conference I am attending? Like the frogs in my imagined conversation above, I suppose I speak based on what I experience and sometimes jump to my own conclusions without the critical thought I really should apply before doing so. Maybe learning when to speak up and when not to is an age/wisdom thing. I’ll have to work on that thought some more. I have practiced a several minute pitch for my book if the opportunity presents itself, and hope I do not fail if said opportunity comes along.
I realize now that I have been quiet most of dinner as these thoughts are roaming around inside my head; as thoughts tend to do. Looks like dinner is over and it’s time to move on.
After leaving Pappy’s we arrive at the Gunnison Valley Observatory which houses a large telescope. A berm of sand surrounds the observatory and we are told there are several fox dens in the berm. Smaller telescopes aimed at the Moon sit outside, and the larger 30” telescope housed inside is aimed at Saturn. We look through all of them before entering a room for a lecture on galaxies. The lecture is focused on galaxies near and as far as space telescopes have allowed humans to see. The topic is as enlightening as it is amazing to even try to comprehend.
Eventually we arrive back to the town house in Mount Crested Butte and once again I tell myself I will try to escape the introvert within at the conference tomorrow. I don’t remember which speaker said it, but one said something to the effect that agents and editors are just as anxious to meet authors as authors are to meet them. Each has their own expertise about what they do. I think the point was not to let yourself be intimidated. The first words I wrote down at the conference, “Be confident”, still cycles in my head as I go to sleep.