So last week, I attended the Philadelphia Stories dinner celebrating our 2012 winner of the Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction! Winning author Adam Schwartz gave an amazing speech that brought quite a few of us to tears. He was so humble, so overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion. Now that is the ultimate rewarding experience for a writer. He talked of how we work our behinds off in solitude, maybe showing our work to a family member or a friend. But for a group of strangers to recognize your work, celebrate it, and throw a dinner in your honor where we hand you a fat check and talk about how great you are for 3 hours?
Yeah, I can only hope I’m in his shoes some day. The choked up part came when he tried to do something as simple as thank his wife for all of those hours he was allowed to “go off and tinker with his story”. He paused for quite a while, gathering himself, and when he started again he wondered out loud why he couldn’t get out a few simple words. The best part was during his moment of silence, when his wife – who was seated somewhere in front of Joe and I – leaned over to a friend and whispered, “this happened at the wedding too”. About 30 seconds later, when Adam started again, he said “this happened at the wedding too”. That’s when I got all teary eyed. The next morning at Push to Publish (where I had the pleasure of spending most of the day talking with Adam about our writing, our jobs, etc.), we agreed it must have been the idea of sharing such a personal emotion with a crowd of people. That was it.
Now seriously, click here to read Adam’s kick-ass short story, “The Rest of the World”. What a wonderful guy, and (obviously) an extremely talented writer.
Push To Publish
As I said I’d be doing in my previous post, I whipped out my little pink notebook and spent a lot of time scrawling things down all Saturday afternoon. After bagels and coffee, we gathered into the auditorium on the always beautiful Rosemont College campus (I really suggest looking at pictures of this place, it’s like a mini Hogwarts), to hear keynote speaker (and this year’s final judge to choose Adam’s story) Kevin McIlvoy get us all revved up for the day with an opening speech. I scribbled furiously while this man talked about things I never even imagined. For 30 years he has studied language, recording the voices of men and women 70+ and obsessing over each recording, considering how “several streams pour into each other to make the voice that has developed over the course of a long life”. Kevin said “an old voice has more moments of emptiness that are full”. He made my brain hurt in the best way ever. While I always thought I paid close attention to the way each of my characters speak, McIlvoy pulled me up to a whole other level of thought as a writer of dialogue.
Kevin continued into something I understood immediately: “It’s astounding, how many selves we have. Writing exposes our most secret selves.” As writers, we’re all a little Bipolar, a little Schizophrenic, aren’t we? Morbid, romantic, hilarious, thoughtful. There’s things we can write down or type out that we would never allow out into the world in any other way. It’s a therapeutic release of sorts.
Things got weird again (but in a crazy genius sort of way) when McIlvoy started with the bird calls, and even invited us to join in. But, it served its purpose. He compared the call and song of the Common Yellowthroat to the way a person does something called “think-sounding” (following the sound of one’s thought to the next thought). He spoke of “rhythmic syn-crony” and all sorts of other things that sounded lovely, even if I had to give them a little extra thought. This man certainly has an iron grip on language and voice.
Kevin ended his speech with something every one of us understood as we nodded our heads in agreement: “We are engaged in writing as an act of faith….It takes stamina and courage…We are here because we are believers…[The] artist life is questionable as a career…Be attentive to all [writing] offers you. It will bring more of you to the world.”
Then came the speed dates. That agent I met with last year that I was hoping to meet with again this year? Yeah, writers tore through her signup sheet like wildfire. So I sadly signed my name under the open times of a few others I was hoping to meet with, and decided I’d have to awkwardly corner her somewhere on campus before the day’s end. But on a positive note, I think my speed dates were all a roaring success! I shoved my Honorable Mention-winning short story, “Sirens Underwater” into the faces of three published writers. Alison Hicks gave me a few very nice compliments, and told me if Glimmer Train gave it a thumbs up, then it has a home somewhere. She then rattled off about ten literary journals I could try, and I struggled to write them all down before my hand cramped up. I thanked her, and moved on to a very nice chick from Apiary, and finally the bad-ass and wonderful Aimee LaBrie, who ran the 8-week writing course I took last winter. We talked, mostly about my story and a little about life in general. She scrawled several helpful notes and comments and question marks on the edges of every paper and I had to be kicked out so the next writer could meet with her.
Then there was lunch. Then workshops about selling genre fiction, the pros and cons of e-publishing, and a Q&A with agents and editors. And somewhere in there, I was able to corner agent lady without too much awkwardness, and she handed me a fresh business card and told me to query her. Score!
Watch this and you can totally see my head at 0:30 as Aimee pours over my story (with agent lady in the background!).
Happy Friday, everyone! It’s rainy here in Jersey and I tripped up the stairs this morning.
Guess who isn’t a property virgin anymore?! Soon, I will write to you via my own bad-ass writing hideaway.
Oh, and this one’s for Le Clown: