Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How to Survive Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and the Rest

Going to a writing conference this summer? Poet Eduardo C. Corral has some good advice for you. His piece is geared toward Bread Loaf, but most of the suggestions apply anywhere:

--if you're a poet, introduce yourself to the fiction writers. and vice versa ...

--if you're a waiter or a scholar: be nice to everyone. don't look down on those who don't have the same financial aid package as you. i hate that shit. i walk away from those type of people at conferences. don't buy the hype. don't support hierarchies.

Read the rest here.

I might add a few items to his list:

--Don’t attend with grand expectations of how your writing life will change. It may change, but probably not in the way you expect, especially if what you’re expecting is that your faculty leader will read your manuscript, think you’re the most brilliant thing since sliced bread, call an agent who will send a limo to pick you up and whisk you to a meeting with high-level Knopf editors. That hardly ever happens.

--Don’t whine unnecessarily about the food. Honestly, it’s FINE, mainly because you are not cooking it yourself.

--Cute skirts and dresses are, of course, cute, but stiletto heels and elaborate gladiator boots just look silly on the top of a mountain. Think: you’ll be walking in a rustic area. WWJD? He’d wear flat sandals with his cute skirts and dresses.

--Unless you’re going to a conference that specifically tells you that you’ll be writing, expect that you won’t be getting much (any?) writing done, and that’s okay. You’ll come back home exhausted but inspired, and that’s when you’ll write up a storm.

--If you won’t have access to a car, quickly make friends with someone who does. You’ll want to escape the compound at least once. Pizza never seems as desirable as it does when you’re on a mountain at a writing conference.

--Be nice. To everyone. And yes, I mean everyone. It’s the right thing to do, but if you need practical incentive, remember that you never know where someone might end up. Of the top of my head, I could name two specific writers who were simply “one of the crowd” in my class who later wrote New York Times best-selling novels. You can’t be best friends with everyone, but you can at least be pleasant. People will definitely remember the big B-I-T-C-H…I certainly know I do!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.