Tuesday, August 2, 2011

GUEST POST: Good/Bad/Sublime Writer's Conference

As I've noted, Tuesdays are going to be a day for my wonderful blogging friends to use this space to let loose.  There are no rules, not even that one rule about not talking about Fight Club.

Today's post is from the delightful and saucy Juice, from LA Juice.  Her tag line: Fresh squeezed sass. No pulp. pretty much sums up her persona.  I find her awesome and hilarious and a font of sass on many, many topics, from Jamie Lee Curtis to hockey great Chris Osgood to author interviews to what it's really like to live through CARMAGEDDON.  She's funny, is what. 

And she's written a delightful post about being a writer and the business of being a writer - meaning attending a writer's conference.  So we don't have to.


My 1st Writer’s Conference: the Good, the Bad and the Sublime

Hi all! I’m Juice, a friend of Suni and new but regular commentor here at the “verse”.  We became friends because we both blog and we both wrote a book. While Suni will surely soon be a very wealthy authoress, My book remains unpublished and probably always will. “Allegedly” it was “too controversial and at times inappropriate” for Kathy Griffin’s literary agent (seriously).  It was also too much “like a stand up routine” and too “overwritten” for about 30 other agents. Hence now I just blog- a lot- which is how I found the wonder that is The Suniverse.  

A guest blogger following up the hubby’s brilliant post: Pretty much exactly the same as the pressure Farrah Faucet felt on the Tonight Show’s couch. And me without a Valium.  Only one thing to do: offer up a story from my first and only writer’s conference.

Bear with me and the back story. Even if you are not a writer, I think you’ll find this one worth getting to the end. The Sublime part of the story is really the meat of it all, but the build up will help you understand how I got there in the first place…

Accordingly, I offer you the Good, the Bad and the Sublime: Southern California Writer’s Conference.

The Good

Shiny happy people always freak me the faulk out. Even with all this So Cal Vitamin D and perfect weather, no one is this happy.  And these people were completely enthusiastic, friendly and smiley. I should have seen it coming. This was Newport Beach after all. The entire town is gated. The damned gas stations are gated. The sidewalks are ghostly empty, and with the exception of a few rogue black Escalades slowly traversing Jubilee Ave, there are virtually no cars on the main roads. Eerie as hell.

The conference organizers made several of their successful alumni available as speakers, including authors who have danced atop the New York Times Bestseller List. Interestingly, the authors were incredibly accessible, honest and open and very graciously gave of their time. And they never once called for security when you followed them around asking questions, interrupting yourself only to proclaim to random people: “She had to cut 150 pages from her book before any agent would even talk to her!”

What else? Oh, the hotel bar opened at 10:00 A.M. Say it with me: “Those Mimosas weren’t going to drink themselves.”

The Bad

The conference kicked off with a no-nonsense introductory speaker who began by identifying which genre of books still “play” (get published), and which are dead before they hit the water. It would not be an auspicious start to a “weekend of words” for Moi, but rather some heavy handed foreshadowing.  

Subjected to multiple references to book deals for K.Kard-ass-ian and the drunken Oompha Loompa from Jersey Shore ( where she used 1000 Chimps with typewriters to compose her “story”),  I may have been more that a little sensitive to hearing various lecturers repeatedly state “memoirs are out of vogue, unless you like urine in your face”. (I may also have paraphrased, here.)

  • I also think it unfair that I may have been “shushed” as I lamented aloud that I wish I had known that the path to publication is less a yellow brick road toward higher education, more videotaped golden shower.

Bitter, Party of One?  Indubitably, but it gets better.

The agents and editor/publishers I met for one-on-one submission meetings hated my book.  Universal agreement that the first 20 pages of my book is a disaster.   

The big time New York City agent from the Ivy League school kindly insisted that my book would never be published unless I find a dedicated fan-base of thousands on the interwebs. She was nonplussed when I mentioned I had a reader base of “tens”, AND my Mom. I may have then said I thought her advice was “honest, but delusional”.

Next Up, Big Time Editor/Publisher lady with warped sense of humor, a talking dog and a fondness for tequila (according to her blog). This one will like me for sure, I thought. 

Query, Dear Reader:  How well can a meeting go when an editor introduces herself by preemptively apologizing that she doesn’t want to come off as "too mean"? 

Her comments were, at least, amusing. She swung at the first pitch and damn it if she didn’t hit the bull and win a steak:  “You are drowning in back story and seem to be in love with your own jokes”. (p.s.:  This totally true and I should be totally embarrassed that I like my own jokes.)

What is most delicious about this criticism is that I say as much about 12 pages into my manuscript. Which she would have known if she had bothered to read all the way through.

Sigh.  I thought I was prepared for some tough feedback, but NOOO. I am apparently a fragile flower and there isn’t enough tequila in the world to make it through my book. Unless you are a talking dog.

In the end, I walked away learning one thing about today’s publishing industry: An unpublished author who loves her own jokes but has an aversion to videotaping sex (with or without) urination, who isn’t the social networking belle of the ball is dead in the water, bloated, floating face down.

With an entire day left of this conference and an evening of “socializing” ahead, I did the only sensible thing. I called my sister in San Diego and begged her to drag her arski to Newport Beach. Mohitos on me. She was there in 30 minutes flat.

The Sublime:  Fear, Bloat and Self Loathing in Newport

Like me, this was my sister’s first visit to the upscale enclave known as Newport Beach.  She too was baffled and bemused by the world of gated, 6 ft high retaining walls.  I mean if you’re gonna put the wall up, go balls out and run the barbed wire, eh? Commit. That’s all I am saying.

Although to be fair, when you live in a place where the local upscale hotelier regularly houses guests who offer unsolicited instructions on how to properly dispose of dead bodies, as you drink watered down mohitos while watching a Sublime cover band sing censored versions of “What I got” for a group of filthy rich middle aged white people, maybe gated communities make sense.

I don’t cry when my dog runs away,
 I don’t get angry at the bills I have to pay,
 I don’t get angry when my  mmhhmhmhmhmhmmmhm.
Hits the bottle and mmhmmmhmhmhmhm.”

I shit you not – this is how the entire song went down. The band hummed the controversial lyrics.

There we were sitting at the pool bar, avoiding the people who grinned themselves to death, drinking weakazzed mohitos when we realized we’d crashed stumbled into a separate, private, charity event. And we could not stop relentlessly mocking the band’s choice to cover Sublime songs, censored stylee.

Affronted by insanely rich, ungodly white Orange County’s neutered sensibilities and plied with a bit o’ rum and mint, we hatched a plan which involved the dance floor and the real lyrics to those songs. We were on the verge of causing some trouble announcing our presence with authority when we were joined by another rogue conference attendee. She seemed lost, timid and unsure of herself. We took her under our wing because we were buzzed and hate it when people are left standing on the wall by themselves. We didn’t expect much from her and so were surprised when she soon opened up.

You might argue that after watching her suck down 3 Long Island’s in the scope of about an hour, very little should have surprised us. But honestly, we could not have expected the night to get this - ah- sublime.

Who can say why, but our new friend- whose life details such as a fixed address and surname seemed oddly lacking- came to unilaterally conclude that she could trust us with her deepest darkest secrets. Secrets that included educating us on the successful disposal of a corpse in a large body of water.

As it turns out, it is necessary to gut the body because the intestines bloat and cause the floating. Now. Maybe she learned this from watching CSI or Saw IV, its not for me to say.

I’ll give her this: as an opener, it’s strong. That is how you make an impact on people.

However, given that the hotel at which the conference was being held was entirely surrounded by canals, pools, hot tubs and the Pacific Ocean, and given that I had already suffered my share of blatantly obvious foreshadowing that weekend, I decided that our cue to hastily exit had arrived in the form of intestinal bloat.

I can’t say we made our excuses gracefully either. I believe we told her that we needed to check on our reservation and as she briefly turned her back, we bolted and got the H-E- Double Hockey Sticks out of Newport.

It all comes back to you, you finally get what you deserve
Try and test that, you're bound to get served
Love is what I got, don't start a riot…”

           - Sublime, What I got.


  1. Loved your post!

    Note: I'm never going to Newport Beach...never!

    I feel ya! I recently submitted a manuscript for critique, and very quickly discovered that at least 90% of the people who read it (and who were supposed to give helpful critique to improve my chances of publication), didn't actually read the whole thing. Sad, since it wasn't all that long. But of course, they didn't own up to that - their comments gave them away.

    The 10% who did read it, failed to give ANY useful critique at all.

    I say screw 'em and pass the appletini. And good call on bailing on Ms. Intestinal Bloat!

  2. God, this woman is my style.

    She writes like a dream...I wish I were an agent so I could publish her book so I could read it already.

    Smart, clever, biting, nothing is sacred: I love her.

  3. I grew up behind the Orange Curtain (although not in Newport, but in the ghetto of OC), and you ain't lyin', sister.

    It's ironic, the utter garbage that gets published, but the real talent that gets canned because your name isn't the hot, reality show circuit, attention grabber that those awful, pretentious, vapid Real Housewives of (insert wealth suburb here) are.

    And hey, joke 'em if they can't take a fuck.

  4. Thanks, this was funny. Especially because I used to live in SoCal and know exactly what Newport Beach is like.

  5. Love this.
    So. Much.

    I too wrote a memoir. I thought it was pretty good (and I loved the HELL out of my own jokes. duh.)

    But then I was told the memoir market is "over-saturated" and unless I had the last name Kardashian or had, say, impregnated the under-aged daughter of a ludicrous vice presidential candidate, no one would want to read my story.

    So my next book will be about how I killed myself to haunt Levi Johnston.

    Or perhaps I'll just stay alive and piss on him.

    I hear urine sells...

  6. Not that I'm a big Sublime fan, but why expurgate them like that? Why not just be a UB40 cover band or Hootie and the Blowfish or something? If you ever see them again, tell 'em I've got something for their punk asses. And thanks for the great post. Remind me to stay away from writers' conferences, unless I'm shit-faced.


    Hooray for her having suffered through the writer's conference so we don't have to!

  8. Love the honest you two.

    Also? I love the say it with me line about the mimosas. because really- so very true! :)

    Great post!

  9. No I love you more! and Wow. Aren't you all awesome? I mean I have trolled here reading your comments before and thought you people were the BOMB, but seriously- this is really nice. Thank you all for reading the WHOLE DARN THING and for sharing your experiences too.

    NC- appletini is on its way (yum)

    Empress- Nothing is sacred, except you. and you and you and you too.

    Flan- "joke 'em if they cant take a fuck" is now my very favorite phrase on earth. next to "hand me another bottle of wine."

    Frances- I am still terrified of that place.

    Julie- I KNOW! I seriously am plotting out my next book along those lines. It might be about my cat peeing on everything- because she does.

    Gary- boggles the mind right, I mean these people weren't even young enough to know Sublime. My sister joked that maybe it was one of their son's bands, and this was the compromise: paying gig if you censor yourself.

    Suni- I LOVE YOU TOO!!!

  10. LA Juice - this is amazing! i'm in love with you. also - self publish your book. lulu.com
    screw the asshole publishers who are too pussified to take a chance.
    i want to read your damn book!

  11. How stupid would it be NOT to be in love with your own jokes? And the freaking memoir market is saturated because people can't get ENOUGH of them. If they'll read the braindead jackbrained drivel of Kardashion et al, they'll go nuts for someone who can actually -- what's the word -- write.

  12. Galit- besides having an awesome name, I will drink mimosas with you ANYTIME!

    Simone, I love that you used "pussified" in a complete sentence. (and I agree!!!)

    Bibliomama- Right? in fact, I might be suspicious of people not in love with their own jokes.

    Last comment- All I know is that if this group is the choir- and I got to preach to it- all ya'll sound like angels. (you should visualize that awesome-crazy mom on the travelocity commercial who laughs hysterically when her husband calls her a beach angel now, because that is how I always tell people they look like "an angel".


Every time you comment, I get a lady boner.