Writers in Beaufort

by | Nov 6, 2022

Things around The Manor have been so herky-jerky-disjointed in recent months that I’ve just skipped the last two windows for the email newsletter. It’s not that I’m quitting the newsletter. It’s that “news” is the premise of a newsletter, and there just isn’t any on my end.

How many ways can I say that I’ve got about 55k words in Book Five, City of the Dead, and that I’ve probably thrown out almost that many words over the last few months? I may be a creative writer, but I’m not that creative.

I’m working on the book. I’m trying something different. It’s going slowly, because it’s not my usual thing. And then a whole bunch of family life intruded. Marriage. Death. Cancer. Recovery. Travel. And that’s not to mention my own capacity overthinking the obvious.

The most recent digression: A few weeks ago my Facebook friend Tim Johnson (his writing handle: T.D. Johnson) offered me a chance to present at his Short Story America conference in Beaufort, SC. And I said sure, because one of my resolutions has been to get out of my foxhole and take opportunities to connect to other writers. I’d given the S.C. Writers Association a try, and that just isn’t my thing, apparently. But a writer’s conference sounded legit.

Not that I’ve been to one, mind you. Janet and I did a weeklong residency with Jay Wentworth and Orson Scott Card and a bunch of ASU students back in 2001, and I put together a session for writers at a CreateSouth bloggercon one year. Presenting at a writers conference — particularly one organized around the release a short story anthology — felt a little daunting, but Tim suggested a topic for me: Plotting a trilogy. And I thought, “OK, I can talk about that.”

But here’s the problem: I’ve never done this. I don’t want to look like an idiot. I’ve got to fill an hour. So I’ve go to prepare. And by prepare, I mean “I’ve got to obsess over this topic for far too long.” Which I dutifully did. I wrote out the talk I wanted to give. I revised it and revised it and then I revised it some more. Then I kept revising it, until it was time to get in the car.

So here I am, in Beaufort, getting ready to head out for Day Two. Here’s my report from Day One: I picked up some useful stuff from the other presenters, but I was the last presenter on the schedule, we were way behind on time, and the venue needed us out so they could prepare the room for an evening event.

Which meant I had to do what I’ve been doing my entire life: Toss whatever I’d planned to do and improvise. I didn’t open my notes at all. I went up there, made sure I didn’t hide behind the lectern, got directly to the point, and engaged with the audience. Since my message was “I figured out by trial and error that this was what I wanted to do, and here are the surprising things I learned by doing it,” I didn’t have to worry about looking like an authority.

And I think it went well.

Wish me luck. I’ve got to read a selection from my published work in public today, and that will be another first.