Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Musing on Conferences, Cruises and Cooking Iguanas...

Writing is by definition a lonely profession. Unless, of course, you count the imaginary friends with whom you share your life. Otherwise, human contact is sporadic, and contact with other writers even rarer.
There is the internet, though, and although it is a great blessing in information, it still lacks a great deal of the personal touch. No email, however informative or pleasurable, can equal the pleasure of sitting and chatting with another writer while sipping the beverage of your choice. There is an instant camaraderie, a sense of sharing that just isn’t there with other people.
Imagine, therefore, my purring pleasure at taking my very first ever cruise and, to make it even better, it was with a bunch of writers! The Husband and I attended the Florida Romance Writers’ Fun In The Sun cruise last week, and it was spectacular. It wasn’t just romance, either; the splendid Nancy Cohen did a mystery workshop, and there were agents and editors right there on the boat with us… trapped where they couldn’t get away! (Evil laughter) There was a bookfair and a variety of workshops on all kinds of writerly subjects from time management to query letter critiques. Best of all there were other writers; writers with whom we could rejoice or commiserate or simply compare notes.
There were personal joys totally unrelated to writing, too. A day trip to the Mayan city of Tulum, where the iguanas run around just about anywhere you look. One woman there was startled to learn that they are a mainstay of the local diet; when I started to give her some of my favorite iguana recipes (learned when I lived in Mexico many years ago) she shrieked and ran. I don’t know why. I think that was really quite unadventuresome of her. Properly cooked, iguanas are quite tasty – but not as good as the food on the ship. Three exquisite meals a day, plus snacks, and none of which I had to cook! I don’t know why someone hasn’t come up with a Cruise Ship Diet – after several days of prime rib and Atlantic salmon and other gourmet goodies, one looks at a plate and thinks, “Oh, law, we have to eat again?” For once stunned into quiescence, my appetite still hasn’t recovered.
One memory I will always treasure is from the last night at sea – The Husband and I all alone at the bow of the ship, dancing on the deserted helipad under a full moon, our only music the soft swishing of waves against the bow. Sigh.
Now, as this blog is supposed to be writing related, I must get back to business, and I do promise there is a point. Writers write. We create worlds and populations in our heads, and nearly every one of us does it alone. However, we are not endless founts; we must recharge our batteries, interact with our peers and have some down time. Yes, everything generally ends up being research, but we simply cannot work 24/7, either with or without keyboard. Some of us are fortunate enough to have writer’s groups within a reasonable distance where we can talk with other writers. (And oh, how I would have loved that when I was first starting out!) If not, there are the relationships-at-a-remove available on the internet. Both are wonderful things, and a writer should have both.
But…! If you can, get to a conference. It doesn’t have to be on a ship, however yummy that might be. There are dozens of conferences – mystery conferences, romance conferences, sci-fi conferences, cross-genre conferences – happening all over the country. The intellect, the energy, the personal touch can be incredibly beneficial, as can the opportunity to meet industry professionals face-to-face. Some conferences are distant, others close; some are expensive, some not. There’s a conference for everyone.
Yes, it’s a form of working vacation. What’s wrong with that?

Janis Patterson is a 7th-generation Texan and a 3rd-generation wordsmith who writes mystery, romance, horror, children’s, non-fiction and scholarly. Once an actress and a singer Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. Janis’ husband even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.


Morgan Mandel said...

Sounds like a great combination!

So glad you enjoyed yourself!

Morgan Mandel

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Can't think of anything better--a cruise, writing conference, and time with hubby all at once. Thanks for sharing.