My roommate, Kyley, had never been on an airplane in her life. I was determined that before the end of our undergrad time together, she would go somewhere with me, if only so she’d be comfortable flying when she had to visit me in the future! We originally were planning to go to my house in VA, but when I found out the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference was in Boston this year… we made a slight change of plans.
Kyley dubbed the trip “Busting into Boston,” and on Tuesday we set out on our adventures
Day 1: Travel
We awoke on Tuesday morning pretty early and got going on our way to Atlanta. Right outside the city, we hit some stop-and-go traffic. During a very slow spot, a guy in the car next to us rolled down his window and started pointing. We rolled down our window, and he called over, “Your tire’s flat!”
So we made for the nearest exit. We got to an automative store (which was closed) and checked the tire ourselves. It was so flat the rim was on the ground. We called my parents, and with their help were able to get roadside assistance to come change the tire. Despite booting it to the airport, we still had to change to a later flight. The Delta desk lady wagged her eyebrows critically and talked about a $50 fee for each of us, but generously and with much cynicism waved the fee in light of our tire troubles.
Security was a breeze–there was literally no one in line. (Flights around 9:00-11:00 are generally pretty stress free in Atlanta.) We got to our gate, grabbed some food, and sat down to wait. After all the unexpected stress of getting that far, Kyley had almost forgotten to be nervous about the actual flight, and I did my best to assuage any rising fears. (I even secretly made a seat change to be sure we’d be together, without letting on to Kyley that we’d been placed apart until after I got it fixed.)
Once on the plane, I pulled out SkyMall as a distracting device, which later Kyley told me worked pretty well. Our take-off was a little bumpy due to crosswinds, but Kyley only grabbed onto me once, so I was very proud! When we got up to smoother air, she started looking out the window and enjoying herself (I think). We had a very smooth landing. It was refreshingly relaxing after all the trials of the morning!
In Boston, with the help of my travel guides, maps and GPS, we took on the metro (the T)–another first for Kyley–and found the flat we’d rented without too many problems. It’s a really beautiful apartment, and quite comfortable. We promptly collapsed, ordered some Italian delivery, and settled in for the night.
Day 2: Freedom Trail (part 1)
We took the morning slow on Wednesday and set out at about 11:00. When we exited the metro station in the heart of Boston, it was a bit crazy. Within about five minutes we saw some dogs fighting, a homeless person chasing someone who’d stolen his tin can, and had a local (we presume) tell us, “Get out while you can! Boston’s not as nice as it looks!”
Nevertheless, the freedom trail was really cool. We stopped in at a few old graveyards and hopped into the Old South Meeting House (very cool). I talked with a lady in the gift store about The Dreamer, which she was happy to chat about and told me I was the first person who’d asked about them carrying the book. We also discussed the new Assassin’s Creed game. It was fun to show off my nerd and history geek at the same time. We popped into an old bookstore and finished up in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Marketplace, where we had a late lunch/early dinner. Here are some pictures:
At this point, the weather was pretty bad, and we were both exhausted. We headed back to Mass. Ave and found the Hayes’ Conference Center (where AWP is being held) so I could pick up my registration supplies. Then we went back to the flat and crashed again.
Day 3: The Conference
On Thursday (today), Kyley and I headed to the conference. She was going to hang out in the mall area and do homework while I attended sessions. Despite the blizzarding snow and early hour, I got to the first session right on time–only to discover that if I wanted to be in the room where the session took place (much less have a seat) I would have needed to arrive at least 10 minutes earlier. Hungry and thirsty, I opted to join Kyley for breakfast instead of standing outside the room trying to listen in on the panel. We got food, I got yelled at by a homeless woman (who told me to get one of the policemen to put a bullet in her head), and then I returned for more sessions.
Below are the notes I took for any writer friends. If you could care less, skip down to where the pictures start.
Session: I Didn’t Know I Had It In Me: When Fiction Writers Turn to Memoir
- Spend a year reading memoirs before writing one (fall in love with the genre)
- Can have an arc like a novel. Think of yourself as a character, friends/family as other characters.
- The writing style is as important as the story.
- The analytical side memoirs allow (not so present in fiction)–cultural criticism.
- Don’t be distracted away from yourself. Don’t be afraid of talking about small moments.
Session: The First Five Pages
- Editors read to say “no” (vs. critique partners, friends, family, and normal readers who read to say “yes”)
- A novel is about capturing and intensifying an experience
- Begin immediately in-scene
- Suspense. Every novel is a mystery novel. Major question being posed from page one and answered over the course of the book.
- Do I want to read the next 5 pages?
- Can I boil this (the novel/central ideas) down to a sentence?
- The essence on the first page–the heart of it
- Go straight to change – Don’t waste too much time establishing the before-change information. (i.e. If the story is about the guy getting fired, don’t spend 10-50 pages about how perfect his job/life are. Start with him getting fired on page 2.)
- Actions motivated by characters’ choice: Action provoking decisions, change made by the characters, chain of consequences
- The sense that something has changed by the end
- Address the agent (personalize it)
- Tell why you’re the person to write the book and why it will change readers
- 30 words to sell the book (the pitch you give friends, the pitch readers will give other readers)
- 200 word query letter
- Who’s it by? Publishers don’t want to publish books, they want to publish authors.
- What’s it like? (Compare with other books–especially if querying an agent who has signed on with books similar to yours.)
- Who’s it for? (Target audience.)
- Who did you study with?
- Why should we care?
- Social media
- Jobs, relationships,
- Be a person of letters–community people–via social media. It will 1) Improve your writing, 2) Be good for the culture, 3) Help you make connections.
publishersmarketplace.com – good resource
Understanding Narrative Medicine: Healing the Medical Profession and Patients Through Literature
- Intertwining narrative with diagnosis. New questions and different answers.
- Study shows: Writing without self-pity improves health, writing with self-pity shortens life.
I thought the sessions were okay. The First Five Pages one was extremely good and practical, and the panelists were very engaging. The other two (especially the last panel) felt more like authors just talking about their own projects, instead of really offering discussion or usable advice, which I found a tag disappointing. If I’m going to sit through 75 minutes or more of a panel talking, I want to have at least a page of notes, you know? But oh well. Maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow.
After the conference sessions of the day, we went to Cheesecake Factory for a late lunch/early dinner, and splurged on an Oreo cheesecake.
From there, it was a journey through the snow back to the flat… where we are once again crashing (this time doing personal finance homework!).
More adventures to come….