(I stopped keeping notes after the first evening. I know the morning had a speaker, but I don’t remember who it was, nor what he/she talked about. Probably because I was focusing on what I was going to say/do when Les critiqued my story. I’d sent him the first twenty pages about a week before the conference. I was on pins and needles.)
No expectations helps. I keep chanting it as I wait for my time slot.
I sit down in the big dining room with the uncomfortable chairs and shake his hand. We chat about inconsequentials. He takes out my story pages and begins.
He says he likes my style of writing. I take a breath. Good start.
He says he never did figure out what the book was about. I take a different breath this time.
‘Twenty pages,’ he says. ‘Is it a fantasy? Or is it present day?’
I sit back. I know I have to cling to ‘no expecations.’
The ten minutes take ten hours. I thank him and leave the room. Pulling on my coat, I walk with determination towards the lake. No, not to jump in it, but to feel the cold spring air on my face.
At least this time I didn’t weep. A good thing.
When I return, a woman I know from a writing class asks me how it went. She has been part of my critique group in the class.
When I tell her, she smiles. “He doesn’t know the fantasy genre,” she says. Kindness drips from her mouth. “Your book is really good, but you always pick the wrong people to critique it. Take the ‘I like your writing style’ and then leave the rest. He doesn’t know the genre.”
I take a deep breath and smile. She’s right. I always do pick the wrong critiquer.
I took my first book to an SCBWI conference last fall. The editor who critiqued it spoke to the entire group right before my time for her critique. She said she hated violence. Well, the first two pages of the book I presented to her are of a huge battle with much death and destruction. I wish she had sent it back and said she doesn’t read violent stories. Would have saved me her horror. In her defense, she did like my style of writing. She liked my characters, she liked the world I had created.
Got to focus on the positives and keep going.
Sometimes, writing resembles the tryouts for American Idol. These people audition who shouldn’t be there. I often have wondered if they have friends or not. Their singing is atrocious. Don’t their friends tell them, ‘Don’t do it?’ They can’t keep on key. The tempo flees from them. Yet, bless them, they stand there and sing with gusto.
Is my writing like that? Do I not ‘hear’ the truth?
Nope. People I respect say I write well. So, I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep going to seminars, workshops, and conferences.
But I’ll have NO EXPECTATIONS.
Life is good – unexpected – but good.