I discovered three interesting things about myself and life in general yesterday. It was Day #1 of the Philadelphia’s Writer Conference and as such, I found myself in the very same hotel in Old City where I nearly threw up last year thanks to my anxiety over pitching my first manuscript to an agent.
This year, I had nothing to pitch. And I completely dropped the ball on registration so I missed not only the early bird discount but also the chance to send in a portion of my manuscript(s) for critique. I was tempted to bail on the conference in its entirety and spend the weekend agonizing over promotional materials for the Fringe because I couldn’t bear the thought of going to the conference and having to admit to everyone I met last year that actually, I’ve made very little progress since then.
But then I asked myself the same question I always ask myself when I’m faced with such dilemmas: what would the successful writer do? A successful writer would go to the conference, attempt to improve her craft, network and stop beating herself up for having not landed a book deal at 25.
As for my three discoveries:
The first has to do with food. As undergraduates, my roommates and I made a very careful study of traffic flow in the dining hall. Ours was one of those colleges where you couldn’t wait to eat—the food was predominantly organic and locally grown and the annual Thanksgiving feast was so fantastic that our professors used to bring their families.
With such mouth-watering faire, however, you’ve got to know how to get to the good stuff before it’s gone, how to pace yourself, and how to sneak baked goods out of the dining hall to enjoy in the privacy of your dorm room.
(For the last of these I devised the Cupcake Bra. The idea was to create a bra with a little flap on the outside, kind of like a nursing bra, into which baked goods could be inserted and smuggled out. The only problem, aside from the fact that I never managed to build a prototype, was that said bra would only would for flat-chested people whose busts could accommodate the addition of an entire lemon poppy seed muffin without arousing suspicion.)
My roommates and I devised a special route through the buffet in order to maximize our dining experience (and to ensure that we got the good desserts before they were all gone). We were like a bunch of Navy Seals, actually (if you didn’t get there by 11:20 on weekends, there were no forks left) and this training stood me in very good stead at yesterday’s Agents Discussion Dinner.
I’d reconnected with some friends from last year’s conference and by 6:00, we were all starving.
“Last year, my table was the last to get called up to the buffet” a columnist from the ‘burbs lamented. “We didn’t eat till almost 7:00!”
“Really?” I asked. “Mine was third, right after the agents and board members.”
It was quickly decided that I should be the one to select the table for our group. I made a quick assessment of the ballroom, noted that the “reserved” tables were clustered around the front right hand corner and deduced that first non-reserved table to be called to the buffet would be the one just behind and to the right of the agents’ table.
“You’d better be right!” one of my tablemates warned. “We’re going to blame you if we’re the last one’s called.”
“If you’re that concerned,” I laughed, “then you should be up at the buffet scoping it out right now, then you can go around to each table and tell them what’s there so they can make up their minds now instead of holding up the line while they try to decide what they want.”
(And you thought I was kidding about my undergraduate study of buffet-dining efficiency…)
Around 6:30, the moment of truth finally arrived: the head waiter gave the first reserved table the nod, gave the second reserved table the nod and looked as though he would continue heading clear across the room away from our table but then he made a quick turn and doubled back.
“You may proceed to the buffet,” he announced.
I think my tablemates actually cheered.
So that wraps up discovery number one: always sit just behind the important-people tables. You’ll lose the front-row view but you’ll be first in line at the buffet.
As for my other two discoveries? Well, I’m afraid they’ll actually have to wait until tomorrow because if I don’t get my lazy butt into town, I’m going to miss Day #2 of the conference and a successful writer would not do that.