Friday, April 26, 2013

Writers of the Future: The World is a Village, and "That Guy" will be the Outcast. Plus, belated thanks.

(As a winner of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future competition, I attended an invaluable workshop in Los Angeles from April 8-16, 2013, taught by some top professionals.  I will discuss a few of the lessons I learned in a series of posts).

In his fine study of the literature  (both fiction and non-fiction) of the American Civil War, Patriotic Gore, Edmund Wilson made this observation about the insular nature of the Southern aristocracy:

"Yet we are struck, as we read these two diaries, Miss Morgan's and Mrs. Chesnut's, as well as other Southern documents of the period, by the recurrence of the same family names.  Sarah Morgan in Baton Rouge is related to and knows the same families as the Chesnuts in Richmond a thousand miles away."  (from Chapter 8, "Three Confederate Ladies: Kate Stone, Sarah Morgan, Mary Chesnut")

Well, that was then.  In the era of stagecoaches on dirt roads, only the rich were well-traveled enough to know a wide circle of acquaintances.  In the modern age, we're all like those "Three Confederate Ladies."  (A disturbing thought.)

During the Writers of the Future workshop, we were urged to, at all times, be professionals.  We could ruin our reputations by being, as instructor Tim Powers put it, "That Guy." 

"That Guy" being (and this is my exposition on the theme rather than Tim's exact words) the jerk, the braggart, the humble-braggart or just overt braggart, the fanny pincher, the mean drunk, the obvious ass-kisser, the me-me-me attention whore, the one who no one at a writer's convention ever forgets, and not in a good way.

Because you will be remembered.  And frozen out.  Of everything.

You don't believe the world's a village now?  Check this out.

ENCOUNTER #1

During most of the week at Writers of the Future (WotF) one of our other occasional lecturers was a previous winner from Canada named Jordan.  He and I were at dinner many times together.  Near the end, he mentioned his online magazine, Every Day Fiction.  I sat up.

I have published four stories with Every Day Fiction, the last time barely a week before the start of the WotF workshops!  I wrote an encomium of them in a previous post.  I had always dealt with Editor Camille Gooderham Campbell, and thought of it as "her" magazine.  But Jordan Ellinger is, indeed, the publisher.

"Hey, Jordan, man, I've been in Every Day Fiction," I told him.  "Like, at the end of March, man."

"Oh yeah!" he said.  He kinda remembered author Eric Cline, and I guess I had seen the name of publisher Jordan Ellinger, but we hadn't realized it until that moment.

(I don't have a good picture of Jordan at hand, but just do a Google image search for Matthew Perry, and that will suffice.  Seriously, it's like Jordan's his pod person replacement.  Eerie, man.)

My second unplanned encounter with someone who had already bought my fiction was like lightning in comparison.

ENCOUNTER #2

I attended a breakfast at the hotel sponsored by WotF.  I sat down at a long half-table/half-booth with several others I had already met, including instructor Dave Farland/Dave Wolverton.  The guy to my left was one of the few people at the breakfast I didn't know by sight.  Someone introduced us: "Eric Cline, this is Scott T. Barnes."

Scott and I had automatically clasped hands in polite greeting when I said, "Hey!  Scott!  I think you just published me.  Like, recently!"

"Yeah!" Scott said, equally amazed.  "Last issue!"  Scott is publisher of NewMyths.com, which gave a home to my story, "The Last Listener."

Scott is another alumnus (the WotF weeks are great because several alumni are brought back to recount their own practical experiences to us newbies).  Later, after that moment of genuine and delighted astonishment, we posed for this phony re-enactment:


SO THERE YOU HAVE IT.  One week.  Two online magazine publishers who had bought my work.  No one expected it.  But that's what happens.  It's a small world.

There were other editors there.  People I have never sold to.  And if I had acted like a jerk, I never would. 

This isn't about being phony.  (The above photo notwithstanding).  It's about being professional, which is something different. 

A phony has to try to act like the opposite of what he/she really is, and fools no one in the long run.

A professional strives to be the best version of what he/she is.  A professional strives to embody the most admirable traits of the world he/she really and truly wants to live in.

I believe I was professional at the WotF workshop week.

We'll see, though.  I'm sending stories out now to some of the editors I met that week.  Hopefully, I impressed them.

Oh wait!  I forgot!  You also have to write stories so good that people want to buy them! 

Crap.

#

SEPARATE TOPIC:

I had prepared an acceptance speech for the Sunday, April 14 awards ceremony, but it was on my laptop.  I had forgotten that I didn't have a printer in my hotel room.  So I sort of winged it when I got to the podium.

When birds wing it, sometimes they hit the occasional power line.  So did I.  I forgot to thank Mr. Daniel Reneau, the talented young artist (and Illustrators of the Future winner) who provided a fantastic illustration for my story:

 
Sorry I spaced, bro.  Sorry I spaced.
 

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