I had a terrible dream about attending a summer writers' conference, which I've been contemplating doing again. After last night, now I'm not so enthusiastic.
In the dream, I walked into a workshop, and the teacher, a paunchy fellow in his mid-forties with a goatee, looked around the room, and without as much introducing himself, said the following:
Before we start, let's get a few things straight. First of all, I'm not going to be your buddy, I'm not going to hang out with you, and most of all, I'm not going to help your whale-turd of a novel get published—I only have so much of that kind of capital with my agent and publisher, and I'm not going to waste it by submitting to them your cruddy book.
So don't come to me with your manuscripts, because I'm throwing them away as soon as you're out the door. If I do read them, it's for my own amusement. With the emphasis on "amuse."
That leads into my next point. About 98 percent of you are not, I repeat, not going to publish your novel. About the same number of you are not going to publish a collection of stories or have a play produced. Why? Because there's thousands and thousands of more talented people ahead of you in line, with better books, better agents, and more marketing synergy.
Somehow, I feel like I've seen this before
Yes, you heard me, marketing synergy. If you think publishing is unlike any other business, you've been watching too many reruns of "Fantasy Island." If you're well-known already, you've just increased your chances exponentially of getting your book published. What, do you think celebrities can write more than their own name on a contract? Do you think Madonnna or Ethan Hawke or Bill O'Reilly would have gotten published if they weren't on television and in films?
But let's just say—oh, for the hell of it—let's just say that you do manage to get your novel published. And, for the sake of argument, let's say it's a brilliant book, though if you had that much talent, I promise you wouldn't be begging the likes of me for help. Are you delusional enough to think you can make a career out of it?
Look at me—I've published collections of stories and a novel, all to great acclaim. Yet I'm still teaching at Northwest Bubba State Tech, pulling down a massive $35,000 a year and no tenure ahead. Why do you think I'm teaching here this summer? Because some of you will throw yourselves at me for some easy sex? I get plenty of that from undergraduates who think that bedding this hairy, corpulent body will increase their self-esteem or make it as a writer. It's because they're throwing a few grand my way to stand here and bloviate about the meaning of the writer's life.
I mean, if you've taken a week off of work to come here, or if you're a housefrau working on your sixth unpublished book, you've really just wasted your time. Of course your husband or wife wanted you to spend a week here, because that's a week they get to spend unfettered with their girlfriend or boyfriend.
Do not try this at home
So, if you're smart, you'll just sit back, relax, and listen to me say puffed up shite about writers I like, which means you'll get to hear me reading from my collection (which I highly recommend you go out and buy; don't worry, I've got copies in my briefcase now I'll sell you for $5—less than the remaindering pile you'll usually find them).
Maybe you're here for practical writing advice. Just don't worry. I'll dispense lots of gems you could read about in any decent writing book. "Never start a story with dialog" or "Never describe a lesbian sex scene 'lezzin' out.'"
But I will say one thing, right now, an ironclad rule you must never, ever, ever use dream sequences. Not in your novel, short story or even your blog. Especially your fuck-ass, suck-ass "blog," Bookfraud!
And then when I woke up.