Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

A Day with Dorky Writers.

My mother-in-law mentioned a writers conference the other week, one at Towson University. I can’t say I was stoked but I felt this obligation to go since I’m writing a book and all. I guess Towson being rated number 2 in hotties a few years back didn’t hurt either.

I got out of bed early. It was about seven on a Saturday morning. I got in the Element and headed the five miles or so to the college. I parked in a nearly empty parking garage, somewhat fearing for my safety because college parking lots are where gang rapes occur, or so I thought. But then I remembered that it was 8:30 in the morning and all the college kids were sleeping off their drunken stupors from their wild orgies the night before; I felt a little safer.

I made my way up to the third floor of the Student Union building via an elevator that smelled of hydraulic fluid. Upon Entrance I saw my mother-in-law chatting with some other ladies on a couch in the lobby. I stealthily made my way past to where they were hiding the breakfast, a Blueberry Danish and a coffee for me. I set them down at an empty table. There were vendors in this room with the coffee and spent some time talking to two fellows at the Maryland Writers. One guy was medium build, clean cut, neat. The second, taller, with scraggly grey hair and that energetic-sleepy look that is oh so rare.

“What do you write?” I ask the hyper-sleepy man.

“Fantasy”. I saw this coming a mile away.

“Cool, what have you written?”

“Well, I just had my first novel published” He hands me a bookmark with a well drawn picture of a girl with some sort of yellow fire coming out of her hands. The title is, fittingly, Ursula the Yellow.

I get back to my coffee only to see some other dude stirring it. This was confusing. What’s this dude doing to my coffee? Probably putting rufies in it, I suspect. All these writers are so weird.

Back out to talk to my mother-in-law and her new found friends I find myself surrounded by middle aged women. Indeed, women at the conference out-number men 4 to 1 from what I can gather. We engage in idle banter about their writing of sex scenes and the embarrassment they feel when their children read their works. We make many jokes that I have written on my nametag “The Amazing” so now it read out, in its entirety, “The Amazing Tim Baer”. All the ladies seem to get a kick out of this and constantly make jokes about it. I get the feeling they might be making fun of me.

The keynote speaker was Larry Doyle, a former Simpsons writer. While all the other presenters are dressed in suits and ties Larry looks like he rolled out of bed. His grey hair is unkempt, his shirt is buttoned to reveal a t-shirt with a cartoon monkey on it. He looked tired and he delivered his speech with a dry wit that would be hard to match. He had said his goal in life was to become a “famous something” so he didn’t have to sell anything but in the end he had to sell his books. He wanted a “couch job”, a job he could do from his couch. I guess I feel the same way, Mr. Doyle. We’re both lazy pricks, probably from the same crop where God harvests us before birthing us into this world. Mr. Doyle, therefore, is my brother.

I went out on the roof-patio and talked to a writer named Ed Palmer, who writes poetry. He was a big boned guy, with a gotee, in his late twenties, like me. He told me he wanted to coin the word “extween” which is like the opposite of between. Apparently the only way to say this concept is “on the outside” and extween would be simpler or something. Look, more power to you goofy writers and your fascination with all things wordy and what-have-you. The rest of the world thinks you’re weird but we owe you one. In the end Ed and I talked about fantasy football which I felt was much more interesting than writing.

I went to a lot of seminars, but the one I really to go to, Creative Non-Fiction, I left. This is due to the fact that the room was small, it was standing room only, and it was about 50 degrees and I was standing below the A/C vent. Speaking of this, you know what gets my kilt in knot? There were about half dozen women sitting on the floor, most of them older. And there were nine able bodied men sitting on chairs. Now, maybe I’m old fashioned, but “STANDTHEFUCKUPANDGIVEAWOMANYOURCHAIR,MAN!” Men don’t sit in chairs while women sit on the floor, that’s bullshit. I was on a standing room only bus back in August and saw the same un-chivalrous shit going on. In fact, when a couple people got up two young men jumped into the seat they had vacated despite the fact that there were women standing right next to them. You offer the ladies your seat in times like these, guys. Man up. Ugh, I want to punch someone.

The only other class of interest was Blogging for Bucks hosted by an ex-Baltimore Sun reporter with a blog on dogs. This is really nearly journalism on dogs, it’s good stuff and a little silly. Bruce A. Jacobsalso hosted the forum. He has written such notable works as Race Manners and is a fierce African American Liberal. It was nice to hear about his blog for the first ten minutes or so of the forum, but gradually his non-stop grating on all things race related made me want to walk out. I wanted to hear how to blog for bucks but instead was subject to hearing him use the phrases “racial discourse” or “political discourse” about three-hundred and twenty-seven times in a 90 minute time span.

In the end I learned I need to be wittier, as I can be. And I took really good notes, marking them by the hour and including tons of stuff. Maybe you can tell the difference in this post, maybe not.


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