Here’s the thing about writers. They’re not what you think. Sure, some of them own sweaters with suede patched elbows, or sit at antique desks looking off into the distance while chewing pensively on feathered quills. But not usually. Most writers are like the people I meet at conferences.
Vague looking, mostly old, and holding intense conversations about the strangest things. Ask a fellow attendee about their book and the answer may be accompanied by a thoughtful frown or goofy grin. “Well,” they’ll say, drawing the word out so it has four syllables. “Its about a dwarf who wants to be king. But first, he must travel to the extra solar planet, Alpha Centauri, to rescue the gamine maiden XYGMSSTYO, held captive by an alien wizard, the great Wartzshnogger.”
For some reason, three quarters of the people I meet tend to be fantasy writers. (George R. Martin has a lot to answer for.) My overwhelming feeling at these gatherings is one of belonging. Of being home. Sometimes, when I’m waiting in line for a pitch session or an overpriced drink, I long to turn and hug the person behind me. “I know its hard,” I’d say. “But everything will be all right. You’re going to finish your book and find an agent.” (I actually don’t advise being quite that friendly. When I tried it at a writer’s conference in Calgary, a guy thought I was trying to pick him up.)
When I’m with my fellow writers, I feel encouraged. Supported. And vastly entertained. Because the most interesting conversations are the ones inside our own heads. We may be thinking about plot or character development or chuckling over an inside joke. I tell you this so you’ll recognize our slightly dazed, inward turned expressions. The vacant gaze. The fall down a flight of stairs while puzzling over a new plot device.
November is national novel writing month, or, Nanowrimo. In thirty days, aspiring writers will attempt to put fifty thousand words on paper. There’ll be real sweat involved, plus lots of hand wringing and the occasional crying jag. This world wide movement has almost four hundred thousand participants. Famous writers will send out funny, original pep talks that leave us feeling like we woke up popular in high school, a geek bonus.
If you have a bucket list, becoming a novelist would be a well earned addition to it. And an opportunity to be part of something global. In Flin Flon, the Nanos meet weekly in November at the Orange Toad for refreshments, encouragement and a chance to brag about our word count. Please consider this your official invitation. And welcome to the in crowd. http://www.nanowrimo.org