Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Back from Little Rock

I'm back from the writer's conference in Little Rock. It was both nourishing and numbing. It's always good to talk to other writers, other folks who take seriously this business of using words to change the world. (My students like to ask me that, after I've shown them something very cool on the page, they say, how do you know so much, how did you learn how to do this, how do you know this stuff? I say to them, hey, words are my bidness.) Finding other people who take words as their craft, and talking to them -- instead of people for whom the business of the world is, well, business -- selling more plastic spoons, or building more double-wides, or finding some new way to talk more freshmen into coming here, to UAFS, instead of going down the road to UCA, not, mind you that there's anything wrong with that -- but talking to people who care about writing novels like I care about writing novels, well. Yay, that's all.

Also, an actual audience showed up for the reading, which was a bit surprising. We read at 4.30 in the afternoon on the second day of the conference. My experience with that time slot is that you will be lucky if the parents and spouses of the writers show up to hear the reading. (I brought mr. delagar and my father along.) But no -- about thirty-five people came. It was at the main branch of the public library, and open to the public; also the Arkansas Arts Council people came; and people from the writing conference itself; so that might explain the relatively large turn out. Anyway, it was nice. And they all listened, and laughed in the right places, and came up afterwards to tell us how they liked it.

On the other hand: all of the writers reading are having the same problems getting published. We've all written novels that have won awards, some of us a number of awards, some of us major awards, and none of us can get published. Two of us have gotten big name agents who have taken our novels on (one of us has had two agents do this, with two different novels) and shopped the novels around to all the big publishing houses in NYC, and every place it is the same thing: Great novel, great writing, love this book, but.

It's that but. You don't have a name. We've never heard of you. This book doesn't fit some category we can market it under (that is, it's not chick lit, it's not incest/southern gothic, it's not about the mafia, it's not a murder mystery, it's not about S. Africa), so we don't think we can easily sell it. Sorry. Good luck placing it elsewhere.

That bit's discouraging. Especially since I don't see what the solution is. (Write chick lit? Heh. Would if I could, believe me.)

2 comments:

zelda1 said...

That's what I enjoyed about writer's conferences, people who loved to write. Rooms full of people, some standing for lack of chairs, and all good writers and we all are still pumped about our novels, still wanting to get them published, and still writing more. But alas, graduate school has put a damper on my conference attendance. I'm glad you had fun and don't toss that novel back in the dungeon, give it more time, keep pushing it and eventually it will find a home. I'm sure of it, you are an awesome writer.

Trina said...

I had the same problem re: publishers & agents. I write fantasy, but it isn't epic fantasy or fantasy/romance, so, no real interest. Then I had The Agent, who shopped my novel around to nine -- count 'em, nine -- publishers, then announced that he couldn't do anything more for me since that didn't work. My solution, though it probably wouldn't work for everybody, was self-publication. Although I know I'm not going to get rich off my books, I'm completely in charge of the process and don't have to worry about whether some publisher's marketing division thinks they can sell my books. Self-employment can be a wonderful thing -- if you don't expect to make a lot of money.