Final Thoughts on Hugo House Writer’s Conference: Finding Your Readers in the 21st Centruy

The Richard Hugo House’s writers conference was tiring, like most conferences, yet a great conference for the those seeking to understand not only how to get published, a timeless question, but how to use the new tools of media. All of it was quite useful and seeing what you have to do to support a book is rather daunting. There was a talk from one PR agent and the details she went in to on just setting up bookstore readings, something that has only minimal success these days, could be a real time suck. What was interesting, too, was not only to get a chance to talk to other writers, but to talk to writers in genres I don’t even think about, and to be honest, sometimes value disparagingly. It gives you a chance to see where you are, but also what it is that drives other people who are committed to an idea that you would never otherwise think about. On the other hand, I got tired of trying to describe my novel since it is too amorphous at this point.

Being with writers searching for readers and also being a reader/reviewer who’s been watching the publishing world struggle it was fascinating to see how those two worlds try to sink up. The new writers are shocked, the more experienced are navigating it the best they can, and we have publishers like Mathew Stadler trying to be innovative, and still there is panic. Yet on the small press front there is the DIY attitude, which is quite refreshing and gives you hope. The turmoil is just so unsettling and now there is no one way to go, and whatever you do it will take some of your precious writing time.

As a web developer who participates in social media projects, the questions that came up about social media are both eager and uncertain. Many writers have such a long way to go to get a handle on social media. I think many writers have a hard time moving beyond the work. I can sympathize, I don’t want to either, but for better or worse, you have to. I saw the same thing in the technical writing community, where you can find writers with a similar mentality. When that group was hammered by the .com bubble there was a cry for the writer to lift the head from the work and it was hard for many.

I’m certainly glad I went and it was definitely worth sacrificing the prime writing time.

My May Reading at the Hugo House

I read at the Hugo House Monday night (5/3/2010). It is an untitled piece as yet, but it is more or less done, except for the nervous, pre-read corrections. It was a bit of a departure in that it was designed to be funny, a piece of comedy. It was the first time I’ve read something like that, but I got plenty of laughs were I wanted them. It took the crowd a paragraph to get into it, but after that it went well. I even had to wait several times for the laughter to stop, ten seconds in one case, before I could continue reading. It is good to know that what you thought was going to work does.

Also on the bill was Dave Gardner reading an excerpt from his memoir of growing up in Guadalajara as a teen in the 50’s. It was interesting and if you want to read it or the whole book you can at his blog.

There were a couple of short stories that were good and one writer brought a friend and they acted out the dialog of her story. One woman, a Polish immigrant, read a piece about loosing her job and getting financial counseling so she could begin to save money again. She told us she was going to read it to some bankers later in the week. Then there was  piece about overcoming addiction and coming out as a transgendered woman. Those last two were quite a departure from the usual poetry and fiction. The best line of the night goes to the woman with the piece where she becomes a god: I don’t plan to do any work, that is what my pantheon is for.