Archive » July 12, 2007
By Ernie Witham
The Secret Life Of Writers
Every June, writers from all over the world migrate to our seaside village for the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, armed with all the essential: a laptop, hangover pills and sunscreen. Conference goers never actually see the sun, but because they spend approximately 20 hours a day in workshops, they need to protect against florescent tan lines. This is how their week goes:
Friday: Opening night begins with a mixer on the plaza. The wine flows like poetry, the beer like pulp fiction, and writers experience their first test by trying to balance hors d’oeuvres on plates so small they could’ve been borrowed from Barbie’s party set. Then they settle in for a brief orientation that lasts approximately as long as it took them to receive their English degrees. After, they trot off to bed and dream of 56 weeks on the NY Times bestseller list, appearing on Oprah, and starring in the movie version of their books.
Saturday: The workshops begin at the ungodly time of 9 am, an hour when most writers are drinking day-old lattés, opening their first rejection letters of the day, and making calls to the Writers Anonymous hotline. But the eager writers march into class, boot up their laptops and start their writing day just as they do at home – searching eBay for a good, slightly used muse.
Sunday: The writers finally work up the courage to read their manuscripts aloud. It’s soon discovered that creative minds think alike and there are at least 24 students writing about a sensitive young man from Rancho Cucamonga, who earned a PhD in theoretical mathematics while following the Grateful Dead, and now wants to write a ballad that will save the planet and bring peace on earth. It’s rumored there’s even a cookbook version of this tale.
Monday: The writers are so exhausted they’ve stopped drinking lattés and are now mainlining Red Bull and leftover pizza. Unable to handle another lesson in character development they slip into the poetry workshop in hope of a nap. Instead, they’re bombarded with metaphors, iambic pentameter, and guidance on the proper use of rhyme. (There once was a writer from Nantucket, who told his editor to… etc.)
Tuesday: It’s ‘Get-an-Agent Day’! This is the day when hopeful writers line up for fifteen minutes of undivided attention with real-life literary agents. That’s when they discover their novel that makes The Old Man and the Sea look like Buford’s Catfishing Weekend is charming, but New York’s not buying literary fiction this year. And their 400 pages of riveting interviews with Osama bin Laden have some interesting travel elements, but they’re also not buying memoirs at this time. Which projects will make the cut? Freda Kahlo’s Mexico On A Dollar-A-Day, Raising Worms for Fun and Profit, and Why I Married a Goat and Immediately Joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Next year there will be dozens more variations on these universal themes.
Wednesday: Sleep deprivation seriously sets in. After staying up every night till 4 am at Shelly Lowenkopf’s pirate workshop, the writers ask for Visine get-the-red-out cocktails with their ginseng bran muffins. Their fingers now look like biscotti from pounding keyboards. Some of the bags under their eyes bear a striking resemblance to the Michelin Tire Man, while others favor the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Luckily they can’t doze off because the thermostat at the DoubleTree is set artic low to keep everyone poppin’ fresh.
Thursday: This is the last full day of workshops, and the writers turn their attention to the looming issue of living up to last year’s shenanigans, when, as all the conference goers know, there was a goat spotted relaxing in the hotel spa – most likely the same one featured in this year’s Why I Married a Goat and Immediately Joined Alcoholics Anonymous.
Friday: The awards breakfast is at 8:30 am sharp. The hotel staff has put out a feast of fresh fruit and Danish, and the writers pile their Barbie plates high, munching away while waiting to see who won the prestigious “World’s Worst Opening Sentence” contest. Then, with certificates and trophies in hand, the conference goers head for home wearing sweatshirts that say, “I Attended the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and All I Got Was This Lousy ¬Sweatshirt and an Agent Named Lipshitz.”
Until next year!
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