By Trai Cartwright
Part Two of a Six-Part Monthly Series
Am I misguided or perhaps a tad, a bit, a dollop delusional, or are the forces behind the world of storytelling building like a Gangnam-style viral video? Have you felt it too?
I’m convinced this groundswell of creativity has been coming on for the last year or so: more and more folks, both in film and in fiction, have been taken over by the urge not just to write, but to be amazing at it, and to be serious about it. And, as if vindicating these impulses, more and more avenues to publishing and to audiences are arriving by the digibyte-load.
Why do you suppose that is? I know when I worked in Hollywood (pre- and post-Internet/cell phones/Blackberries/Smart phones, etc. etc. etc.), business stopped in August. Had to take our month-long vaca’s from living in paradise, don’tcha know. And from mid-December to mid-March everyone was at or thinking about the Holidays, the Sundance Film Festival, the Oscars, Cannes, so no go then either.
These were the times writers wrote in earnest, knowing that the minute the executives and the producers came back, they’d look around and say, “Whoops! Guess I haven’t developed any material for a while, and without material, there’s no product to sell, and without product selling, I don’t get to travel the world on Disney’s dime anymore.”
And the floodgates for submissions would open wide.
Oh, how I loved September and April.
In the publishing world, August suffers from the same absenteeism because, really, have you tried to live in NYC during that month? Even the AC has AC. And that love of month-long vacations infected a whole nation of agents and editors. (I’m not as familiar with this world — is there another time to avoid trying to pitch because everyone’s on vacation?)
So while our erstwhile moneymen and gatekeepers and greenlighters are fanning themselves in spectacular locales (at least, that’s what I wish for them), writers of every ilk are hunkering down.
This is especially seen in the fiction world right now, right this minute. Fall is the time of year we give ourselves a stringent self-evaluation:
How much have we accomplished this past year?
Did it meet our standards and goals?
Do we have anything close to being ready to sell?
What’s it going to take to get it there?
Just how seriously we’re going to take ourselves for the next twelve months?
Why this brutal going-over now, when everyone else is watching their tans fade and their kids head off to school?
It’s Writers Conference season!
This magical time happens twice a year, Fall and Spring, and it’s serious stuff. Who among us can’t wait to spend our hard-earned money to take classes, network with writers and agents, be inspired by the new author panels and key notes, pitch the future editor or agent of our books? Or are we going to wait for Spring?
The power of a good writer’s conference can’t be disputed. There are endless stories of writers who were blocked going home charged up to write, writers who did indeed find agents (I’m one of them!) that lead to book sales, writers who learned just the right skill when they needed it, and the business acumen to act on it, writers who remembered who they were, just by being immersed in the stew of their people.
We are your tribe. No one else quite understands you the way we do. And we love you.
Needless to say, I love writers and I love conferences. I teach at several a year, and am always thrilled by the success stories I hear, the vibrant life of the classroom, the prosciutto-stuffed chicken breasts. I love seeing old friends, both presenters and attendees, making new ones, and sitting in on classes so I can keep that learning-part of my writer brain alive.
The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Colorado Gold Conference is one of my all-time favorites. Most of you already know it’s coming right up, and I’ll be there once again to present. My master class on Friday morning is for the particularly brave and sadistic: “The Only Character Class You’ll Every Need.” (I’m a big believer in hyperbole and then trying to deliver on my outrageous declarations.)
And on Sunday, I’ll be teaching a high-level perspective class called “I. You. Them.” This is not just a rehash of your high school English lessons—this is a potent discussion about how story is shaped by POV, and vice versa.
If you haven’t been to a conference, maybe it’s time to go. If you’re going again, I look forward to seeing you there. Regardless, ‘tis the season to ask yourself: how serious am I? How serious am I gonna be?
Trai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.