Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine's Day Rogues


Best Valentine's Day EVER. Last night I got back from the So Cal Writers' Conference in San Diego, and wow. What a ride. I drove down there with Clint and the kids on Friday morning. Since Clint wasn't attending the conference himself, he decided to take advantage of my already-paid room at the Crown Royal by having a mini-vacation with the kids. So while I was conferencing, they were visiting the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, the Natural History Museum, and so on.

My first workshop started on Friday at 2:00, so I didn't have much downtime once we arrived in San Diego. I went to two workshops that night, then reunited with Clint and the kids for dinner. We went to Shakespeare's Pub & Grill:


It was actually night time when we went (this picture came from their website), so green rope lights lined the patio, and tall propane heaters kept outdoor patrons warm. There was plenty of seating inside the restaurant, but we chose to sit outside because it was such a gorgeous night, and I personally love the ambience of downtown San Diego. It was an awesome dinner. The food was delicious, the beer tasted great (I had hard cider) and we had a great view. The green you see beneath the patio is MUCH taller in real life--we were at least two stories up from the street, above an entire wall of vines.

Saturday was my busiest day. I woke up early that morning to start my workshops; six hours of classes, with a lunch break from 12:10 to 1:00. I found this awesome spot to sneak off to eat my lunch:




This oasis was situated right between my hotel room and the conference center, so I was "forced" to walk past it every morning. It seemed to be a hidden gem, because no one else was ever there. I ate my lunch at the table shown above, working on my manuscript right next to a stream and a rock fountain. Such a beautiful, serene setting...I need to get one of these babies installed into my house (in dreamy sparkle-lala land, of course).

Quick selfie while there was no witnesses

My workshops ended at 4:20 on Saturday, and I went back to my room and got dressed for the writers' banquet. The banquet was a ton of fun. I sat down at a table with some acquaintances I had made during the workshops, and we never stopped laughing. Best-selling author Laurence O'Bryan, who had flown to the conference all the way from Ireland, asked if he could join us. He was the instructor for one of the workshops I had attended earlier that day, so it was great to hang out in a more upbeat, social setting. It turned out that he was also the special guest speaker for our dinner that night; a fact I didn't realize until they called him up. He gave an endearing speech about his journey to becoming a best-selling author, although I'll admit--even a mediocre speech would have come out great with that awesome Irish accent. 

The banquet ended shortly after 9:00, at which point I headed straight upstairs for my "Rogue Read and Critique" workshop. Rogue workshops are a purely optional choice for the writing die-hards, beginning at 9:00 p.m. and ending whenever the participants can't take anymore. When I entered my particular workshop, I knew I had chosen the perfect group when I saw this message scrawled on the whiteboard: "Anything less than 3 a.m. is weakness." Our workshop that night was run by author Linda Taylor. We selected five pages from our manuscript (most people start with the very beginning of their books, since the beginning is both the most challenging and everything), and Linda read our pages out loud to the entire group. Then she went around the room, allowing everyone a chance to give feedback on what they heard. Finally, she herself gave feedback on the piece. 

If you've never done one of these before, it is terrifying the first time the author takes your work into her hands. Holy cow. Can't even describe. But once you hear the way your words sound rolling off the lips of someone else, and everyone in the room is listening to your story, it is exhilarating.

We took a ten minute break at midnight. Somehow our group ended up doing really bad yoga while discussing theology. I think this was the threshold by which we were starting to get tired. 

By 1:00 a.m. our little conference room was freezing, so we moved downstairs in front of the main conference room and pushed some tables together. At this point there were only seven of us left. That's when a correspondent from NBC News showed up. NBC had heard some "rogues" were still up at the Writer's Conference, and they wanted to air some footage. Wes, the director of SCWC, was with us when NBC showed up, and he was able to do a quick interview to go along with the footage that was taken. Someone must have fetched Michael (the executive director of SCWC, also an author/screenwriter), because he showed up shortly after, as well, and did an interview. The rest of us were filmed doing our "normal thing." That was hilarious. The reporter told us to be natural, and here I'm smack-dab in the middle of a sentence when a camera is shoved right under my nose. It took all of my willpower to keep talking and not laugh (we did end up collapsing into hysteria once the camera moved elsewhere).

Here's Mark, our camera guy:


  
He was a really good sport.

Five still standing (er--sitting, but it still counts)

At 2:00 a.m. we realized we were STARVED (it had been seven hours since dinner), so we all pulled out every snack we could dig up from our bags and put them in the middle of the table to share. We ended up with a buffet of peanuts, Cheetos, Girl Scout cookies, M&Ms, and rice cakes. The fact that some of these snacks were already opened/half-eaten was irrelevant.

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, we all trudged back to our rooms. I remember my mind was still buzzing when I went to bed, and I felt like liquid all over.

I slept for a few hours before it was time to wake up for my morning workshops. I might have let myself skip at least one to sleep in, but the sessions I scheduled for Sunday were the ones I wanted to attend the most. My fellow rogues obviously felt the same way, because they were all there at my first session. I had four total workshops on Sunday (with a lunch in-between), and they were worth being sleep-deprived for. The most valuable sessions I attended were: How to Write a Killer Query (led by author Maralys Wills) and "Your Book is Finished - Now What?" (by author/editor Robert Yehling). I absorbed more information from these two workshops than I have in months of internet research. After Yehling's session, I stayed after for a few minutes and he showed me how to format my pre-chapter quotes in my manuscript, along with the various song lyrics and text messages that appear in my novel.

Once my last workshop ended, we drove home, and the rest is history. Overall this Valentine's Day weekend ROCKED. I will definitely be hiding away nickels and dimes now, hoping to save up for next year's SCWC. Who needs roses and chocolate when you can have Cheetos and rice cakes in the company of delirious writers? Romance shmo-mance.