Tag Archives: books

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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Optimism

There are upsides to depression. For instance, say you are on your way home from a long day working at a factory somewhere and you find out your dog has eaten your favorite pair of shoes and/or your birthday cake. Most people would become furious, start waving their arms and raising their voices all shrill like. But you simply walk in the door, notice both the shoes and the cake, and just sort of shrug your shoulders because you don’t really care about anything these days. Your nihilism has reached an all time high. See what I mean? It’s not all bad having a chemical imbalance in your brain that makes everything as bleak as a Bergman film. Anger for instance goes away and the caring about small things like a pair of shoes and/or a birthday cake. Of course happiness goes along with it but no one ever said you could have it all.

Another upside to depression is that you never expect anything good to happen in life so when something good does happen well, it really makes your day. Like when someone offers to pay for your coffee or your parents remember your name. I mean, sometimes you wish for death and when that doesn’t happen it can be a little bit disappointing but this can also be a good thing because you don’t really fear death. You welcome it. And because you don’t fear death you are completely immune to the worries and fears of other people’s lives such as “What if I get hit by a train?” or “What if I get cancer and my balls get chopped off?”

Are there other upsides to depression? Probably not. But I one or two upsides is better than none. 

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