Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Writer’s Hotel Conference Part II

 

 

Thursday and Friday were long full, days. I took the C train from the Kingston-Throop station to Bryant Park each morning, had workshop at the Casablanca Hotel from 8:30-11, quick break for lunch, then went on a tour at the New York Public Library on Thursday, followed by a seminar on Writing Performance, a lecture on Revision, followed by an open mic. Friday I went to a lecture on The Novel in the afternoon and then a reading at the Cornelia Street Café and KGB bar after a quick coffee and sushi stop in the West Village with my new writing friends Tom and Carolyn. After the readings Friday, I attempted to go to a show at the Comedy Cellar, but I had no reservations and didn’t want to waitlist so instead I went to The Grisly Pear, a B comedy club a couple doors down (pretty sure Pete Holmes filmed an episode of his HBO show Crashing here). The comics were still good.

After some two stiff drinks at each place I was feeling pretty toasted and so took the train back to Brooklyn, weaving down the sidewalk as I walked back to the Brownstone I was staying at.

Saturday I slept in till 9. Justine made coffee. I chatted for a bit with her then headed back to the City for lectures from Steven Salpeter from the Curtis Brown Literary Agency and Kevin Larimer, the editor in chief of Poets and Writers Magazine. I finally had an afternoon off so I walked uptown for a quick rest in Central Park, stopping for a late lunch at Rue 67, a French-inspired restaurant. Many people, thousands really, were all strewn on the lawns shirtless and in bikini tops in the middle of the Park, soaking up the Saturday June sun of one of the first hot days of summer. I tried to take a nap but just more or less just closed my eyes for a moment. After a quick stop at the horrendous Central Park public bathrooms, I took the R back downtown to Third Rail Coffee to prepare for my reading. The sun and humidity slowly wrapped me in a blanket of sweat and dizziness.

I read that night at the KGB bar and knocked it out of the park. Then I went out for drinks and food with everyone after. It was a great day. And, also my birthday.

Sunday was a bit more depressing. It was agent day so after a morning of workshop where I got some good feedback on a novel about Utah I was starting, we had a brief orientation on what the afternoon would look like. We’d all line up in a queue in front of a specific agent and then have four minutes to pitch them our book. Then we were told we’d either get a card or email, or simply a polite, “No thank you, this isn’t for me.” I felt nervous, but ready.

I pitched my book:

“It’s More Like Horror is a memoir about youth, faith, and depression,” I said. “It’s about depression in everyday life and follows me on a journey from Denver to Portland to Salt Lake City as the romantic ideals of my zealous evangelical youth are met with the realities of death, suicide, miscarriages, and a loss of faith.” But the first agent merely looked at me blankly and said, “Memoir’s are tough.”

There were ten agents in total and around half were only interested in genres I didn’t write in, so I skipped them completely. Pretty much all of the agents said the same thing: The idea was interesting but memoirs were tough to sell unless I had a crazy platform or insane writing credits. One gave me some good feedback to focus on the story of leaving my faith rather than depression, as depression was a subtext of the story. I thought this was good advice but at the same time, my story wasn’t some salacious tale of leaving a repressed religious community, although, who knows, maybe that would sell if I were to frame it like that. Suffice to say the afternoon was discouraging. Good feedback and learning experience I guess, but no one was all like, “OH my god, send me this book now!” So, now I am left once again to rethink my book, a book I’ve already spent nearly five years on. I may just be too young to write a memoir at this point. That’s how it goes I guess though. As Scott, one of the main faculty of the program told us in a good debriefing/motivational speech/boxing analogy, the next day: “You’ve put the gloves on, you’ve stepped into the ring, now you better expect to get hit. Then you keep punching back.”

 

Monday was our last day. One final workshop and lecture followed by a reading at The Half King, a bar in Chelsea underneath The Highline where we heard a hilarious piece by Rick Moody, some moving poetry by Tim Seibles and some excellent fiction from both Scott and Shanna.

I took the A train back to Brooklyn, packed, passed out on the couch, and woke up next morning to head back to SLC via JFK.

It was all in all, a fantastic trip, though I may need to hibernate for some time in a cave alone so I can sleep, process, and rethink my writing. I also may need a new liver transplant. But hey, it’s all-good, I’m one stop further down the tracks to becoming a professional, published writer. It all takes time.

 

 

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The Writer’s Hotel Conference

 

Tuesday. June 6th.

I left for The Writers Hotel Conference at 2:57 p.m. from Salt Lake City, Utah. Cat and I stopped by the ATM to pull some cash, then we drove the short, fifteen minutes or so it took us to reach the SLC airport. The air was hot and dry, nearly 90 degrees, and the sky was blue, almost too much so, and I found myself looking forward to the humidity and greyer skies of the Northeast.

I arrived to the airport early, way too early, and so had almost two hours to kill, as leaving at 3:00 p.m. from the Salt Lake City airport on a Tuesday only takes about 15 minutes to get through security and walk to your gate.

I bought a Jamba Juice and then walked through the airport trying to find the last remaining smoking room of the airport. For some reason, though you cannot drink beer higher than 3.2% on draft in ALL of Utah, you can still smoke at the SLC airport. I tried Terminal D, where my flight was leaving, first, then made the longer walk to Terminal C. No luck there either. So, I walked even further to Terminal B where I knew for sure there was a smoking lounge. To my surprise, after nearly twenty minutes of walking, the smoking room was now gone. In it’s place was a brand new power outlet charging station with the three rows of blue vinyl seats. I took a deep breath. That’s fine I thought. I’ll survive, it’s only, what 5 hours to NYC? I actually wasn’t worried as I had cut down to 3-5 smokes a day and so going five hours wasn’t a big deal. Still, I was disappointed I had just wasted 45 minutes walking through the airport in search of a tobacco fix.

I fell asleep after take off, waking up shortly after somewhere above Wyoming. I tried to read and write some, but I was distracted so after one chapter of The Sympathizer by Viet Than Nguyen, I turned on the movie Silence by Martin Scorcese, about three priests/missionaries who undergo a crisis of faith while witnessing in 17th century Japan. It was a film I’d wanted to see, though watching it in flight for my exciting conference put me in an altogether dourer mood than I wanted to be in. This, coupled with my lack of nicotine, taxi-ing for thirty minutes on the JFK runways, a twenty-minute wait to get off the plane, another ten minutes to walk through the airport, and another twenty minutes to wait for my bags while my friend Justine waited to pick me up, was a bit of a killjoy.

No matter though, I was in Brooklyn, NY! To counter the coffee I drank on the flight I drank some bedtime tea at my friend’s Cole and Justine’s Bed-Stuy apartment. I fell asleep somewhere between 2:30-3 in the morning Eastern Time, which meant it was only around 12:30 for my Mountain-Time-zoned tuned body. Outside, there was no noise as the dull glow of an orange streetlamp cast shadows through the one bedroom apartment.

Wednesday June 7th.
I slept in Wednesday and too the train to Dumbo, Brooklyn where I had a bagel and a macchiato from Brooklyn Roasting Company. I tried to go bouldering at a place under the Manhattan Bridge, but some film was being shot and the boulders were closed. I then rented a Citi bike, biked over the Manhattan Bridge, and had a Cubano with my friend Luis on the rooftop of his Lower East Side apartment.
The first reading was at a bookstore called the Kinokuniya bookstore across from Bryant Park. We heard readings from Said , Roxanna Robinson, Shanna McNair, and Scott Wolven. All terrific.

We then went out for informal meet and greet at the Algonquin Hotel. I chatted with people from Texas, Norway, London, and Delaware (honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone from Delaware). I had expected the price of the drinks to be insane but I was struggling to find a word more intense for the price of the cocktails, of which I had two and clocked in at $16 and $18 a piece. The minimum price. Holy money. Two of the T.A.’s for the conference, Erica and Adeeba, offered to give me a ride home as they too were staying in Brooklyn. So, after paying my exorbitant tab (at least the drinks were strong) I rode with them to Greepoint. They asked me about my book and life and I had a hard time explaining it to them (of which I knew I needed to do a better job of as I was pitching the book to agents Sunday). When I tried to explain how marriage was hard and life was difficult and how my religious upbringing influenced everything including my depression, I think they got the feeling I was headed for divorce or suicide, though they themselves had asked the overtly personal questions. Ask and you shall receive. Next time, I will do the more socially acceptable human thing and speak in platitudes like “Yes, marriage is great! It’s hard but good.” I learned that night that any other answer begs to be misinterpreted by the questioner.

I should have gone home and gone to bed as I needed to leave my house at 7 to get to the conference by 7:30, but I was in New York and my friend Nick invited me out and I couldn’t say no. So, I met him and his partner Pearl at Irene’s in Greenpoint and we watched the rest of the Cav’s/Warriors game. Here the drinks were cheap and I got a PBR and a well whiskey on the rocks for $9. Now, that’s more like it. After two rounds I headed home and was met with the news that G was cancelled for the remainder of the night and the bus was the only option. I was a touch drunk and so decided to Lyft, which also turned out to be more expensive than I thought because of the price surge. The ride took longer than I thought and because of all the drinks I had to use the bathroom. Once home, I fumbled around for my keys desperately needing to pee, like immediately. The keys or my hands holding the keys wouldn’t work and as I was standing there on the Bed-Stuy stoop, I felt a warm sprinkle emerge below my waist, slowly turning into a constant, warm stream spreading out in two divergent trails making their way down the steps. As Taylor Swift says, “Welcome to New York.”