Breaking with all recent history, I went to a writers conference recently. I’ve avoided them for all kinds of reasons, mostly involving my total lack of interest in sitting in a room with a group of writers I don’t know and having my work critiqued.
Not that I mind having my work critiqued. I just don’t want it critiqued by people I don’t know, people whose work I’ve never read, people whose internal perceptions and biases are unknown to me.
This, though, was a conference primarily about publishing. I should have done this a long time. It was hosted by CLMP at The New School in New York. Probably the best thing was a reminder that the people on the other side of what I do – the agents and editors – are, really, just people. And they are people who really like writers.
There is so much rejection involved in writing novels and short stories, the often seemingly endless intake of rejection letters and emails, that it’s hard for me not to get a little cynical about the people who read my work. When 30 people reject a story of mine, then 1 at a very good journal says yes, I’m left confused and frustrated.
But meeting the people in person, hearing them, it was a reminder of how overwhelmed they are by the number of submissions they get. And especially in the case of books, it was a reminder of how beholden they are to what they can sell.