Thursday, November 15, 2007

Conference Vignettes

Yep, every editor has them--funny, frightening, freaky or fantastic anecdotes about things that happened at writer conferences.

So what's the most interesting conference story you've got?

1. The pair of authors who actually did it (and we'd all thought it was just a publishing industry urban legend): They followed me into the bathroom and stood outside my stall trying to convince me to buy their Nintendo fanfic.

2. The male author who heard me begging for chocolate to revive me during a multi-hour pitch session, and went to a lot of trouble to track some down and send it over to me. And he wasn't even on the list to pitch a story to me! (His wife's a lucky woman, to have a man who understands the importance of chocolate.)

3. The local paper covering the writer conference asked to interview me about e-books and Ellora's Cave. The resulting article was very nice--except that two-thirds of it was about why I wear hats at conferences and what I thought of the local food specialties.

4. A male author, upon hearing that I edited erotic romance, asked if I wanted to dominate him and show him what a bad boy he was.

5. During a mix-and-mingle, an author and I struck up a friendly conversation. Not bothering to look at my name tag, she reached over to pat my hand and asked me if I was here to support my romance-writing mother.

6. During a pitch appointment, one of the authors was so nervous that she asked if she could read from a note card. Unfortunately, she read so fast and slurred her words so badly that I could only catch every third word. I felt like such a monster for asking her to try again.

7. I was so nervous during my first conference that I couldn't work up the nerve to approach people. Thankfully, several ladies noticed me being the wallflower and came to adopt me. I immediately was able to relax and enjoy myself.

8. An author booked a pitch session with me for her "erotic romance". It was the semi-autobiographical story of a child enduring horrendous abuse - sexual, emotional, physical. The author went into far more detail than I could stomach. She was astounded and annoyed when I said it wasn't the type of book we published, it wasn't an erotic romance. "But it has lots of sex!" she retorted. She refused to grasp my explanations that "romantic" and "erotic" are not defined by merely the act of sex - especially when that sex is violent rape or child abuse.

9. I arrived at the conference hotel with the worst cold ever - exhausted, so congested I could barely breathe, throat too sore to speak, bleary eyes. After waiting in a loooong line to check in, I was informed my room would not be ready for several hours. I almost cried. Several members of the host chapter spotted me. They introduced me to a group of writers eating in the restaurant so I'd have someone to sip soup with, then they sat with me in the lobby, fetched me hot tea, even covered me in a blanket! One of them got me checked in so I didn't have to stand in line again. I felt so guilty for being a burden when I was there to "work" for them, but their pampering and care were just the support I needed to make it through the weekend.

10. Warn the waiters! Yeah, they probably knew it was a luncheon of romance writers. But apparently no one told them it was erotic romance authors, whose table conversations about the books they were writing and reading were quite, umm, explicit. And then the speakers got up - and, knowing their audience, didn't hesitate to call a cock a cock! Those young male waiters were neon red. When it was my turn to speak, the microphone kept cutting in and out, so I ignored it and spoke very loudly - unfortunately, the mic would kick in for a few seconds here and there, always when I was saying "sex", "fucking", or such.

11. While pitching her book to me, an author burst into tears. The story sounded very moving, but it was rather uncomfortable to sit there while she sobbed over her own book.

12. To reiterate the lesson illustrated by Number Five, name tags are very useful tools. I cannot count the number of times people have asked me what I write, if I'm someone's husband, or if I am with [insert various other press names here].

13. The first night of the conference was followed by a complimentary trip to a local comedy club. All went well until afterward, when the cab company failed to send the requisite second cab and six of us were stranded at the club. The conference coordinator called the company several times, but it was one-thirty in the morning before we finally managed to get a ride back to the hotel--and what came for us was a tiny sedan. We were too tired to wait any longer, so we all crammed into the cab. There were four of us in the three-person backseat, and two people had to sit on other passengers' laps. As we rode back, the coordinator said, "All right, who's hungry? Let's hit a drive-through! My treat!" There is no better way to break the ice with a bunch of strangers than to sit on one another's laps and then bond over burgers and fries. And yes, we got food for the driver too.


Tilly Greene said...

Oh wow, these are great! I hope the woman in 8 finally got the message, that must've been really difficult.

Amy Ruttan said...

It's unbelievable some of those stories. Of course I am a conference virgin. I guess I'll find out next year. EEP.

Shayla Kersten said...

LOL I was there for the luncheon with the neon red waiters! Our waitress, however, was grinning from ear to ear at their male counterparts discomfort!

Great list! Thanks to all who contributed!

Anonymous said...

I fell off my chair laughing at number 10. But also being a conference virgin I was touched and relieved to hear about the conference wallflower who got adopted by the other attendees. My romance critique partner and I hope to attend San Fran next summer!