There should be a joke that starts like this: “An introvert went to a writing conference…” Heck, maybe there is. Today, I think I am the joke.  I feel like I need about two weeks cloistered in a silence observing monastery somewhere.

However – although I feel like I’ve been boiled for hours and forced through a colander afterward, the PNWA conference was a lovely experience and I am so glad I went. As I sit down to write this post I hardly know where to begin – there is too much to hope to share all of it with any coherence.

It seemed that all energy was focused on pitching, at least through ’til Sunday night. Writers met – in the hallways, at lunch, waiting in lines for one thing or another – and jockeyed for the opportunity to pitch each other their stories. Agents looked a bit like deer in hunting season, wide eyed and vaguely alarmed, hoping to meet a marvelous author and get an awesome pitch, and at the same time fearful of being trapped in a corner by a rabid writer with a three page written pitch and the burning zeal to deliver every detail of a 300,000 word fiction novel.

As it turned out, agents and editors are very human after all (who knew?) and were, I think, as nervous and overwhelmed by the whole event as the writers. Some of them were chock full of intelligence, grace, and generosity, with just a few who were, well – never mind. I didn’t meet anybody who might have been a tiny bit egocentric. Not at all.

What did I learn? I don’t know yet. There are bits and pieces of wisdom bobbing around in my head, none of it coalesced just yet, but I would guess the most important things are the ones at the top, the ones that have already moved me to action.

From Bob Mayer – Have a Plan. After listening to Bob, the very first night I opened up my calendar and put some dates on it for goals. The manuscript should be done by this date, revised by this date, queried by this date. I want my book to be published within three years. That sort of thing. Of course, by the end of the conference I had completely revised my goals and added a few new ones, but the lesson remains the same.

From Andrea Hurst, agent extraordinaire – The first sentence and the first page of your novel might be all you get to impress an agent. Does it stand out from the crowd? I actually stopped several hours into my drive home yesterday to revise my first sentence, and am still pondering the first page. Also from Andrea – the reminder that your book should be connected to your blog, and your blog should be drawing people to your book. I have some ideas about this that excite me, although there is a fair bit of work attached.

From my writing friends – one agent might be totally blase about your pitch, the next excited. It’s a subjective business. You need to find the right person.

From editor Paul Dimas and agent Rita Rozenkrantz – I may have a non-fiction book in me. I am inspired enough to do some research, to investigate this niche, to see whether the need I think is there truly exists.

Other random things – have fun. Follow your imagination, but pay attention to the market. The world is changing. We need stories, and will continue to need them whether in book or electronic formats. There is money to be made in the non-fiction market.

Well, I have work to do: material to send out to agents; real life tasks put on hold for the last few days while I focused completely on writing. And, I have writing to do. That doesn’t ever stop, no matter what.