Silk’s post #19 — Time is running out. And I don’t care. Well, that’s not really true. I do care, and I salute my 5 writers friends for their accomplishments (which are still to be revealed). But for me, the clock has, more or less, stopped racing.
I’m in the land of Aloha. Hawaii is a timeless place.
And what am I doing when I should be putting the pedal to the metal on my book … the one with the February 5th deadline? Attending the first Aloha Writer’s Conference at the impossibly scenic Ritz Carlton Hotel at Kapalua on Maui. I was only able to catch a day of it, but it made me happy to see that a worthy successor to the departed Maui Writer’s Conference (1992-2009 R.I.P.) has arisen. May the new conference thrive!
For those who ever attended, or aspired to attend, the old Maui Writer’s Conference, this is good news. The even better news: the conference is a project of the Keiki O Ka ʻĀina Family Learning Centers, a non-profit with a focus on Hawaiian culture. One of the visible benefits? Captivating hula performances opened and closed the keynote presentations. These weren’t touristy shows, nor were they gratuitous tributes. They grounded the conference in a deep respect for the human connection to place and time, and added a unique, authentic perspective.
For me, it felt like a cultural massage, relieving the numb-bum of sitting through presentations on conference-centre chairs, and relaxing the tension of 10-minute pitch sessions.
Conference Co-ordinator, Vicki Draeger (seen here with keynote speaker Kaui Hart Hemmings, author of The Descendants), brings an educational orientation to the conference. “It’s all about literacy,” she noted in a hallway chat. Literature, literary, literacy … it’s good for us to remember these all come from the same root.
But now … break’s over. It was fun while it lasted, but the relentless calendar continues to advance. Attending the Aloha Writer’s Conference will not make my writing faster. But it may make it better.
The clear-as-a-bell message I took away from this conference, from an A-list of writers, publishers and agents alike: don’t submit your work to an agent, or anyone else, before you’ve made it the best book you can write.
That means rewriting, polishing, stripping down and completely rebuilding, if necessary. Kaui Hart Hemmings described, for instance, how she tried her spectacularly successful story, The Descendants, from a number of different viewpoints. Different protagonists. Different characters playing the survivor, and the non-survivor. She mixed it up, tried role-reversal, let the bones of the story try on different flesh to see what worked, what resonated. Sounds like a lot of extra work, doesn’t it? The result: a first novel that was optioned for film before the book hit the shelves, and a hit movie starring George Clooney (her first choice for the part). Not every writer can expect such a huge payoff. But stopping short of the best story you can write virtually ensures you won’t achieve the publishing success you’re dreaming of.
In fact, every presenter at the conference made the same point: our priority as writers should be writing first. Creativity. Craft. Heart. All that stuff that’s truly in our hands, and no one else’s.
The whole separate issue of selling that writing – with its complex web of queries, agents, editors, publishers, rights, marketing and so on – comes later. In fact, if the writing doesn’t earn an A+, none of these things are relevant, because your book is going into a drawer somewhere, not onto a shelf at Barnes and Noble.
When you network with other writers, and attend writers conferences, its oh-so-easy to lose perspective on this. So tempting to focus on the publishing end of things before you really have a publisher-ready (or even self-published e-book-ready) manuscript. We’re all told to learn the business, promote ourselves, become adept at queries. And we must.
But first, we write. And rewrite. And polish. However long that takes. Until we have “it” – the best book we can write. The book that no one else could write.
Our book. Our passion.
That’s the book people want to read.