By Susanne Marie Poulette
The writers’ conference was great, and I’ll have takeaways for you in my next post. But first I want to share my Genre Dinner experience. It was a new event this year, on the Friday evening before Saturday’s conference. What a wonderful idea, dining with other attendees who also write in my genre. There were two snags, however, and they’re kind of funny, at least now. They were definitely not funny at the time.
First, my book doesn’t really fit into any one, neat, specific genre. Since I grumbled about this in my last post, I’ll spare you the details this time. So, there I was, in Rye, NY, thinking my biggest hurdle was to find the appropriate genre table once I arrived at the hotel dining room. I was wrong. Finding the hotel was the problem. Hey, I’m just a country girl from Saratoga County, foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, and apparently, completely incompetent at driving in Westchester County. It’s a beautiful place, but I wouldn’t want to drive there…again. Let me put it this way, Charlie had a better chance of getting off the MTA at the Scully Square Station, than I ever had of getting off the Hutchinson River Parkway. I thought that I’d be the one who’d never return. Suburban-looking roads suddenly transformed into parkways that launched me on a continuous loop, orbiting around several towns—I lost count—and a couple of counties, and the state of Connecticut. I have a lovely Connecticut police officer to thank for excellent directions to get back to New York, and also a fabulous bellman from the hotel where dessert was being served at my genre dinner. After a few panicked calls to the hotel, the concierge sent their bellman to lead me back on the straight and narrow. I wasn’t too embarrassed, after all, I’m from the foothills of the Adirondacks. (Please imagine a shoulder shrug.)
Part Two. Oh yes, there’s more. When I finally arrived at the hotel, about two weeks late for dinner, I learned that there were two dinners going on: one for writer-attendees like me, and the other, for faculty, including agents, editors, well-published authors, and let’s just say, some big names in publishing.
I found the dining room, but the tables weren’t marked by genre. I figured the writers must have grouped themselves in some other way. I spotted an empty place at a table and thought, what the heck, I could fit in with romance or sci-fi writers, or whatever they turned out to be. After my hour-long expedition of circling the county map with my blood pressure ready to blow its fuse, some gory werewolf talk would be relaxing. I laid claim to the open seat and found my way to the buffet to scavenge through the leftovers. The conversation at the table was wonderful! These were some truly erudite people, and a bit over my head some of the time. Okay, most of the time. In speaking with the man seated next to me, I asked if he was published yet. That’s why writers go to these conferences, to relocate their manuscripts to a publisher’s desk. So I thought it was a fair question, until I coaxed the answer out of this nice, unpretentious man, who had published six novels and teaches writing courses. Oops. I focused intently on buttering my roll, thinking that something didn’t feel right. Then someone from across the table asked me which workshop I was going to present on the next day. Oops again. Wrong table? It gets better. After dessert and coffee, and an organizer’s speech with instructions to the faculty, I hit me. I wasn’t at the wrong table. I was in the wrong room.
I sat for that dinner with three well-published authors and one very accomplished editor. I thoroughly enjoyed their conversation, and their company. They were most casual and gracious and understanding when I explained that the only thing I would present the next day was me! I think I even got a chuckle out of them.
Westchester County really is a beautiful area, and I’m sure that if required, I could learn to drive there and like it. The local folks I met there were friendly and helpful, and made my visit a pleasant one.
So after all this kicking and screaming all the way into the techno age, I will finally relent and give up the ghost, er, I mean—that last bastion of navigation independence—my MAPS. I’ll activate my GPS app. Yup, I’m giving up my maps for apps.
Please watch for my Unicorn Writers’ Conference takeaways in the next post.
© SM Poulette