Friday, November 2, 2007

Overwhelmed at World Fantasy

I've fled from the Saratoga Hotel and Conference center.

I'm typing this at the counter of Uncommon Grounds in lovely, scenic Saratoga Springs, surrounded by the pleasant buzz and chaos that always seems to be present, as pervasive as the scents of roasted coffee beans and fresh-baked muffins, in the best cafes. I'm sipping my drink and posting here, to try and regroup. To get ready to plunge back into the mass of people, commerce and creativity, that I've recently retreated from.

I've come to New York to attend the 2007 World Fantasy Convention. Paula Guran, my editor, felt that it would be a good thing for me to meet and mingle with the luminaries of the writing and publishing worlds. As I'm in possession of a manuscript that Juno cannot use (Juno is very specific about the stories they're looking to publish, namely ones featuring strong female leads, something my book, Rowantree, does not have), she felt that I might be able to pitch the book to one of her numerous editor contacts. My only goal here is to meet some new people, authors or agents or, just maybe, editors, and see if anyone's interested in my story.

I arrived on Thursday, expecting to get checked in and maybe have a nice meal, but not long after arriving I met my friend Tim Waggoner and his friend, the very charming Nayad Monroe, who invited me to tag along for dinner. We went off for a wonderful meal of Thai food and sushi. Returning to the convention, I ran across Paula at the 2007 Horror Writer's Guild awards, and from there it was off to meet and greet any number of people at any number of crowded, hot parties, following at her heel like a well-trained puppy.

I was still in the grungy clothes that I'd been sitting in for the almost 10-hour drive, but soon after, I found myself face to face with an editor from Tor Books, stammering out the basic plotline for my urban fantasy novel, struggling to remember all of the carefully laid-out plot points that, I feel, sets my book apart from the herd. He was polite, but I think he wrote me off as a stammering buffoon and proto-amateur, and soon left to rejoin his friends.

This whole thing has been, so far, so completely and totally overwhelming for me. Everywhere I look, I see names of people that I've read and admired literally for as long as I can remember: George RR Martin (who read the introductory chapter of his upcoming novel), Gene Wolfe, Alan Dean Foster, Holly Black. Stephen R. Donaldson is on the attendee list, but I've not seen him. The list goes on and on and on...

In the dealer room, Juno has a table, and on that table, up high, out of reach (but with better visibility, or so Paula tells me), is my book. It looks so small, perched up there. So tiny in the vast room, packed with uncounted millions of words, all written by men and women much, much more talented than I.

It is, in a word, humbling.

I feel like a boy wearing his father's too-large suit, coming here. Around my neck is a cardboard sign, made out of a shoe box top, dangling from a frayed, discarded shoelace. The word "author" is proudly scrawled upon it in shaky Crayon. As I walk through the halls, trying to recognize names and catch eyes, people look at my sign and smile, somewhat pityingly, somewhat self-indulgently (for, just maybe, they were where I am now, many years ago, and perhaps they remember this feeling of awkwardness - maybe I simply amuse them with my pretensions). Thankfully, for they are good and decent people, they spare me the embarrassment of pointing out that the word "author" is spelled wrong. And the "R" is backwards.

Like I said... overwhelming.

I suppose this was inevitable. I spent the first few months after selling my book frankly stunned at my good fortune, then the first weeks after it's release riding on cloud nine, convinced that now that I was finally a published author that things would be somehow different. That Big Things were happening to me, and happening fast. That I was a Very Important Person, someone that people wanted to get to know, who said things that people wanted to listen to.

While that may be true, some day, this experience has, so far, done nothing but remind me (in increasingly mocking tones) of my own words. There ARE no short cuts. Nothing replaces hard work. No matter how good you are, or might be one day, there are always people far, far better, with audiences much, much larger.

Please don't get me wrong: everyone I've met have been completely wonderful and welcoming, willing to talk about anything I've been able to nerve myself to ask. The honesty I'm experiencing all around me is refreshing and inspirational, as are the authors, publishers and editors themselves. But it was nobody folly but my own to think that any of them would be even the tiniest bit impressed by my single author's credit, no matter how proud of it I am. No, that vanity was purely my own.

Oh well... I've talked enough I suppose. Time to write a few pages and finish my drink, and listen to a few more songs in the cafe before going back. Maybe I can pay back Nayad for dinner last night, and try and remember how to relax. How to take a deep breath. I know that some day, probably very soon. I'll re-read this and chuckle at how scared I am right now, but right now, at this moment, I'm feeling very, very far from home.


Nayad Monroe said...

Hi! I came back from WFC and decided to look up my new friends online, and behold, I have been blogged about. :) It was great to meet you, and to talk, as it turned out, on several occasions. I'm looking forward to reading your stuff and seeing those drawings of yours, too.

Matt Cook said...

You made my WFC trip SO nice and enjoyable, Nayad... thanks to you and to Tim Waggoner for letting me sit at the "cool kids' table" with you.

Don't be a stranger!