Archive for May, 2011

 Put a bunch of writers in a room and we all ask the same questions of each other:  How long did it take you to finish your novel?  What’s your writing schedule like?  How long did it take to find an agent?  How long before your book sold?  How long did you spend on revisions? For people who deal with words, we’re obsessed with time.

At Grub’s Muse and the Marketplace conference last week, everyone I met had different answers.  Some authors, like me,  revise heavily as they go.  Others bang out a first draft and then revise.  Some write every day.  Others sit down at the computer only once or twice a week, but mull sentences and paragraphs over in their heads for days before committing them to paper. Some writers have agents who are very hands-on, so that their books sail through the editorial process.  Others receive letters with pages and pages of suggestions after the book is sold.

I met with Meg Mitchell Moore (whose book The Arrivals comes out soon!) a few weeks before the conference, and we’re at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of our writing and revising style.  Yet we agree on this — to be a good writer, you have to put in the time.  Whether that time is in the beginning of the process or the end is up to you.

If there’s one thing I learned this past weekend, it’s that there are no shortcuts, no hidden tricks for shaving hours off the writing journey. Hearing authors like Alice Hoffman and Ann Hood talk about how much they revise made that very clear.  To be a good writer means you are in it for the long haul.  Tick.  Tock.

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It was a crazy two days, overwhelming and awesome and tiring and energizing all at once.  In the panel with Meg Mitchell Moore and Jael McHenry, my advice for those new to the conference was to take a few days to mull over what they’ve learned.  That’s what I’ll be doing, but I wanted to share a few quick snapshots:

  • Ann Hood’s session on revisions was thoughtful and inspiring and sobering.  And Ann is absolutely gorgeous and kind-hearted — the kind of woman you want to open a bottle of wine and dish with on a Sunday afternoon.
  • I’ll take running five miles in sneakers over walking four city blocks in heels any day.

    Feet, don't fail me now!

  • Elinor Lipman is the definition of elegant, both in prose and personal style.  (You should see her shoes. I lust after them more than I do after best-seller status.) She has a razor-sharp wit and her class on dialogue was one of the highlights of the conference for me.
  • Having a friend get a request for a full manuscript (GO TOM!) was fabulous — I got that same heart pounding feeling that I did when my agent requested mine.
  • If Raffi Yessayan’s books are only half as good as his class on suspense was, I’m a fan for life.  He’s my new (to me) author discovery.
  • Going to the conference when you already know a few people (even if only virtually) makes it SO much more enjoyable.
  • Poor Alice Hoffman is still probably trying to recover from my total fangirl stalker moment.  She was gracious and kind and let me hang with her when I didn’t know anyone in the room.  I’m still pinching myself.  (Alas, I didn’t get a photo.)
  • If Grub is going to scatter finely minced mint leaves over fruit as dessert, it needs to send mirrors to the table so everyone can check their teeth.  (Chocolate cake, on the other hand, needs no mirrors to be consumed.)
  • Whip-smart presenters Crystal King, Nicole Bernier, Michael Borum and Kate Lee may have me convinced there’s something to this whole Twitter thing after all.
  • Randy Susan Meyers could go to the moon and find a  fan.  She’s that good and funny.
  • Boston is still beautiful, but no matter how much fun it is to go away, it never compares to coming home.

    The view from my hotel

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