Baltimore Writer’s Conference Series, part one
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An entry of the Baltimore Writers’ Conference, written November 19, 2015
It’s officially my last day of work readiness and I’m certain that nerves will fly at the interview. My instructor told me that I would do just fine and that if I relax and do my best for this internship, I could get it. On the other hand, she’s also told me not to put all my faith in this one internship that I applied for because I might not get it at all. So with that in mind, I’m concerned that I’m not going to get it even if I put on a pretty smiling face and tell the prospective employer why I would be a great fit for the job.
But I’m not here to talk about that this time. Last year when I went to the Baltimore Writers’ Conference, I talked to Dan Vebber, who used to be a founding writer/ editor for The Onion and a comedy screenwriter for the hit show Futurama. The talk was astronomical, for I was there with my best friend and writing partner in crime Kerensa Hayes and it was one of the first talks we went into together. After the seminar, we talked about a number of things, such as science fiction conventions, the Marvel Comic universe, and eventually ending on the biggest festival of all things nerdy, the annual San Diego Comic Con in California.
I had never been to California, but Vebber encouraged me to go, telling me all the great things about the convention.
“You have to go sometime,” he said. “There’s so much that happens there, so much going on, it’s like the mecca of every fandom. You’d love it.”
That is definitely true because I am a huge Doctor Who fan, if you can tell by my blog’s title name and my screen background. I have this goofy dream about meeting Steven Moffat and telling him how much of a genius he is for creating Sherlock and writing such fabulous Doctor episodes such as “Listen” and “The Snowmen”. (Happy belated birthday, by the way. 54 and fab.)
Even before I met Vebber, I wanted to go to Comic Con. I even started preparing a short story on how one fangirl at the con met her favorite TV show actor who played her favorite nerd character, the Nerd Herd and spy extraordinaire Chuck Bartowski, a.k.a. CIA analyst Charles Carmichael, a.k.a. actor and Nerd Machine founder Zachary Levi. But the problem still remained that I had never been to the west coast of anywhere, stuck in the same mid-Atlantic area for more than 25 years.
This year was slightly different. The keynote speaker Elissa Schappell was energetic and enthusiastic, unlike the last speaker who talked and talked and read something he had written. Schappell, on the other hand, had us writers do a little exercise.
“I want everyone to take out a piece of paper and write down the nastiest, cruelest, crudest thing you could ever say to someone,” she instructed.
I did as I was told, shouting with my pen and screaming quietly in my head the obscenity that I wanted to say to myself. Schappell then told everyone that every time the “resistance” or the thing that keeps all writers procrastinating and doing anything other than work, fire that horrible written sucker on our papers back at the resistance and tell it to upchuck and die.
I took so many good notes as I was there; I believe by the end of the day my notepad was half full of notes I wrote down.
“Don’t forget to smile—you WILL be judged!” said Schappell in her speech. “People will throw vegetables at you and people will worship you like a god.”
She also quoted people like Flannery O’Connor, who said that your work should be deeply personal, of you and from you. Even quoting Virginia Woolf, “If you don’t tell the truth about yourself, you can’t tell the truth about other people.”
She encouraged us to misbehave in our work, to write with the stomach and not the head, like what Virginia Woolf did every morning before breakfast—do not leave the room and get something to eat until you’ve written 1,000 words. Do not edit yourself and trust the universe, say yes. Resistance likes what’s best for you and doesn’t like to take risks to keep you buried in the basement.
“The only person who heckles or goes ‘boo’ is you,” she said. “What readers are hungry for is a new way to see the world.”
Then came my favorite part of the speech, the next task. I had to write down every reason for why I write, listing them off as I went. Then everyone could share what they wrote.
My list went something like this: “voices in my head—inner voice, therapy—bipolar, readers on fanfiction.net, get published—and get on the NY Times bestseller list, see my writing for sale on a shelf at Barnes and Noble, because I’m a lunatic and a cynic, and I love the written word”
I shared my list with the entire room full of writers. college students and professors. The next words out of the speaker’s mouth, which she directed straight to my eyes, were, “Stop dreaming, do!”
For a second there, I thought Kevin James was going to come out through the door and bellow, “DOOOO IT! Do it, dude, do it!”
Of course, I am not a dude, no matter how many times the Doctor had a crowd of people from the 12th century shout the word ‘dude’ in the middle of his axe-guitar fight.
Then again, if I’m really writing with my stomach, my resistance is saying feed me, I’m starving, get me some blueberry yogurt. No, I can’t think about lunch until I’ve actually written something this morning!
See part two here >>>