Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference: Survivor’s Report

I spent last weekend in Seattle at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference. A place where writers, agents, and editors come together in a gladiator-style fight to the death, and only the strongest writer, agent and editor survive. This trifecta then goes on to produce the greatest and best-selling story ever known to man and woman-kind.

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Given that this was my first experience with pitching my project to agents and editors, I expected something like the above. To my great relief and slight disappointment, it turns out that people who work in publishing are not half-clothed gladiators or hot ninjas. They’re people who love books and reading, and have devoted their lives to working with authors to create more books. Who knew?

I pitched to three agents and one editor, and all four requested that I send them pages. Which must mean I presented my idea in a clear and interesting way, and that I didn’t have coffee breath or the bottom of my skirt tucked into my underwear. So I’m super excited about that. I promise to keep you, my devoted fans, apprised of the situation as the rejection letters offers of representation come rolling in.

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Meeting other writers was also super fun. Winning an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite in a random drawing of Twitter users was amazing! Especially since I’m somewhat of a Twitter novice. Well, no more. I’ve learned that tweeting pays, and it pays in Kindles. So just try and keep me out of the Twitterverse from now on.

Were you at the PNWA conference? Did you also win a Kindle for tweeting? (Nope, that was just me! Thanks, PNWA!) What was it like for you?

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The J.K. Rowling Effect, or How to Sell a Zillion Books

Recently, the world snorted its coffee out of its nose upon hearing the news that J.K. Rowling had published another book, an adult mystery called The Cuckoo’s Calling. (An adult mystery meaning a mystery for adult readers. Get your mind out of the gutter.)

The twist is, she published under a pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. The book got great reviews, but wasn’t a big seller. That is, until news broke that Rowling was really the author. Amazon basically exploded after that. They’re still picking up the pieces, which may be why your Stegosaurus dog costume hasn’t arrived yet.

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It seems that many unpublished authors are having one of two reactions:

1)   Crying into their bowls of ramen, because if a proven author can’t sell a well-written mystery, what hope is there for the rest of us poor, starving, not-a-pseudonym-for-J.K.-Rowlings out there?

2)   Directing excessive and nasty glee at all those agents who turned down the Robert Galbraith book. (Suckers. You rejected J.K. Rowling. And me. And J.K. Rowling. Ha.)

I think we all need a little perspective. Ms. Rowling is an amazing, talented author. Even if Harry Potter is not your thing, you can still appreciate the creativity of her world and characters. Plus, she wrote the whole series on paper napkins while hiking uphill in the snow as a single mom. Hype or not, she sold a bajillion books because people loved reading them.

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I’m sure The Cuckoo Calling is great too (not that I’ve read it, because, um, I never heard of it until now.) All we’ve really learned from this whole situation, is that a book with J.K. Rowling’s name on it sells a gazillion more copies than a book with a guy’s name on it that we’ve never heard of.

Oh, wait, we already knew that.

Me and My Car: A Love-Hate Relationship

I have a Volkswagen Golf, manual transmission, cute to look at and super-fun to drive. On the down side, it’s thirteen years old, which we can all agree is an awkward age for anyone. Come on, how pleasant were you at thirteen? At least my car doesn’t slam its doors in my face and tell me it never asked to be born.

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This adorable vehicle does have some little quirks. There are certain lights that come on and off, warning me of impending imaginary disasters. (The trunk is open! No, it’s really not.) The air conditioning isn’t exactly “working.” And the rear windshield wiper has a mind of its own. The thing goes on at random times (read, sunny days), ignoring all my subtle hints. Like when I turn it to the “off” position. I guess my car really is a thirteen-year-old.

There is one feature of my car that I absolutely hate. This little amenity has screwed me many times. The latest happened just this week.

I pulled up at the gas station, got out, and walked over to the pump. My car, sensing nonexistent danger at the nearby Seven-Eleven, went into lock-down mode. All four doors, plus the trunk. With a loud cha-chung just to rub it in. I was left staring in through the window at my key, lying peacefully next to Useful Items Number Two and Three, my phone and wallet. It’s at this point where I start to despise my car.

Really, Volkswagen? Do so many German drivers forget to lock their doors that you had to design the car to do it automatically? From my limited experience with Germans, I find that hard to believe. The Germans are many things, but flaky isn’t one of them. Personally, I get locked out of my car at least six times a year thanks to this diabolical feature. I forget to lock the doors zero times a year. So do that math on that one, you Volkswagen geniuses.

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But maybe I’m missing the point. I should be more careful about not leaving my key in the car. Maybe that’s the reason for the automatic locking: to teach me a lesson about not being careless. To make me a more responsible and thoughtful person, and therefore a more productive citizen. Is that what German engineering is really all about? Maybe my car is not a surly teenager, but actually a wise European sage, and this is all one big learning experience.

Nah. It’s just really, really annoying.