Last Friday, I spent most of the day at the Loews Hollywood Hotel helping man the GLAWS (Greater Los Angeles Writers Society) booth at the Writers Digets West Conference. Actually, the ballroom the exhibit hall was in was not in the hotel itself, but in one of the ones over the Theatre (formerly Kodak, now Dolby) at Hollywood & Highland. So just getting to the right place was an adventure of wandering. That said, once the right location was found, we got settled in.
As it turned out, there were overlapping writers’ conferences going on. Just ending was one called StoryWorld, the Writers Digest conference was beginning, and overlapping that was Screenwriters World Conference. All three conferences shared the same exhibit hall space – which is not a bad thing when representing an organization that is geared toward writers of any sort.
Intially, the booth visiters were folks mostly from the screenwriters conference. Many of them had come from out-of-state, so it was interesting seeing people taking their first steps in sounding out “life in Hollywood.” However, gradually the mix started evening out. Of interest to me personally was when the representatives for Amazon came by the booth, including the current head for CreateSpace. I had a nice chat with her about concerns for self-publishers and learned some bits of information that will be useful for my book Paper Movies [due out August 2014, now as Creating Graphic Novels]. She’d mentioned a service I had not been aware of, but which is an option that I need to include in the book. So the day of volunteering turned out to be personally useful to me.
And I got to say “Hi” to my own agent, Paul S. Levine, as he was one of the agents hearing pitches at the Pitch Slam opportunities the conferences were providing attendees. He was taking a break, stretching his legs, and seeing what the booths were offering. He stopped to chat with us at the booth (since he knows us) before getting back to hearing more pitches.
Saturday began with a regular meeting of the Writers Forum (a long-standing small screenwriters group – all friends). We seem to specialize in “iron sharpening iron” – but it is always about making the work better. Last month, I’d given them a general sort of outline on a graphic novel I’m trying to shape up, and the discussion was very fruitful for me. The project had originally begun as a proposal for an ongoing comics series, but that possibility fell out of the picture (the publisher it was intended for changed their business plan and moved more to licensed material than original creator-owned stuff). But I liked the idea. I’d been stuck in the pattern of the first intention, which would have begun with the character’s “origin story”. But the Forum rightly pointed out that the graphic novel needed something with much more punch. The change in perspective was great. It does mean more work reshaping the plot, but it was very energizing to consider the newer story options. The Forum is one reason why I recommend writers find a good core group of other writers to have a place for trusted feedback. Sometimes it’s really challenging, when you get the news that something you love isn’t working. But the end result, if you meet the challenge, is always so much better.
From there I went on to the GLAWS Special Speaker Event, which this month was a panel on “Writers of Color.”
The panelists, seen above, left to right, were Daniel Olivas, Deborah Pratt, Gary Phillips, Naiomi Hirahara, with the moderator Leslie Ann Moore seated at the end.
The discussion covered everything from their experiences as writers of color — reception of their own work, expectations from publishers and audiences as to what they “ought” to be doing as “writers of color” — to the more general issues of inclusion of ethnic outlooks in works geared for general entertainment. They also answered questions from the audience, a thoroughly engaged group.
Usually, after Speaker Events, GLAWS takes the speakers to dinner, and dues-paying members can join them for dinner chat. Unfortunately, this month, the only one of the speakers who could go to dinner was Gary Phillips. But he was quite engaging, and the smaller-than-usual group of us who went to dinner had a good time.
On Sunday, I met with one of my editing clients. He treated me to dinner with his social group, and I got to enjoy their meeting. And afterward, I discussed the basic notes I had given him on his novel. I know how difficult I sometimes find it to receive criticism on a work, so I proceeded carefully (I suspect this is the first time he’s really gone through the experience). My object is always to convey what didn’t work and why. I acknowledge that I understand why he made certain choices in presentation – they show the depth of his imaginative engagement with his material. But I try to help him see that what, as the creator, makes sense to him might be distancing for the readers he wants to hook into the story. The exercise of giving such notes to another writer, in such a way that will help him or her, always makes me stretch in how I look at my own work. I know I can fall into the same traps myself. In any case, I wanted to be sure he got his money’s worth – that what I gave him would help him improve the work. I wish him well with that. And hey, I earned some money and got treated to a nice dinner in good company.
So it was a weekend that was “all about writing”, in some fashion or other. And that also energizes me to get on with my own projects. It makes for a good weekend, even in the midst of the challenges of “getting by.”