Monday, September 29, 2014

Forget Hanging With the Cool Kids, I'm Going to Hang With the Writers

I spent the weekend in the company of over 40 of my fellow writers; not just writers, in fact, but writers of literature for teens. It was a near holy experience. I spend most of my time--aside from with my family--with my Bristol People, whom I love. I spend some time each month or so with my Eventing People, and I even occasionally hang out with my Yarn People, but, living in East Tennessee and rarely travelling to events like this weekend's conference, I don't get to be with Writer People very often. And while I love my family, love Bristol, love eventing, and love yarn, I am a writer to the core of my soul. My Olympic rider friend once told me that whenever she meets a fellow Olympian of whatever sport they have a common framework of understanding, and it's the same with writers. We instantly get certain things that are hard for non-writers to understand.

Here's an example. We were on the hotel shuttle bus Friday night, heading to a pizza party that was the unofficial start of the weekend. We were discussing writer's colonies, which are sort of like summer camps for writers, only if you earn a place in one you get to stay for free. I said that my life was like a writer's colony already except that no one cooked my meals. Another writer, whom I'd just met, said that he'd always been put off by the time lapse between applying for a colony and actually staying in one. "What if when I get there I'm in a period of self-loathing?"

We all nodded sympathetically. "Good point," another woman (a best-selling writer, in fact) said. "That would really suck."

Adele Griffin was on my small panel for the breakout sessions. She described her new book The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone and the rest of us shook our heads. "We are not that smart," said T. M. Goeglein; the rest of us agreed. T stands for Ted--he's my age and from my hometown, which we discovered at the pizza party when I could correctly pronounce his last name, an odd one but common where we grew up. Adele's book is this amazing blend of art and story and photographs--it sounded so stunning that I immediately bought it at the conference bookstore. I showed it to my next-door author when we were lined up for booksigning. (Alphabetically by first name; I was in between Les Vlahos and Kevin Emerson.) Les thumbed through it, then looked up, amazed. "This is effing genius," he said.

It is. We all know that because we know the work and the creativity that went into it. In a time of self-loathing any one of us might envy the genius of any of the others, but in our best times, like this weekend, we just get it, and celebrate.