As many of you know, I attended the Antioch Writers’ Workshop last week. I promise to post a few craft tips or thoughts about my time there in the coming days, but I thought I’d start the week off with something that happened after the conference was over, during the closing reception.
Something that still makes me laugh each time I think of it.
Something that some people might be so embarrassed to have done, but I, friends, am so far past that state in my life, I’m just telling you up front I messed up.
Let’s set the scene and get started . . .
Early Friday evening, three of my fellow Plot Sisters and I chatted as we ate cookies and drank lemonade. At a lull in the conversation, I turned my head and spied the visiting literary agent, Kari Sutherland, to my left. Jude, our token extrovert, must also have seen her, for she quickly smiled and said hello to Kari, who then came over to chat with us.
We’d already attended the session at which Kari had spoken and several of us had even pitched to her (great practice, whether or not you actually have a manuscript ready, you know). Kari had seemed like a down-to-earth person, eager to share her knowledge. She’s also an author, an editor, and an agent all in one. She was approachable and amiable, and sported a welcoming countenance. The same can be said all the while we spoke to her. She was easy to talk to and several of us asked her questions.
And that’s when I got into trouble.
“Is the rest of your family in the writing business?” I asked, after she’d told us that her sister, Tui Sutherland, is an accomplished author in her own right. I thought maybe the writing genes ran deep, and perhaps Kari just hadn’t told us that she was, indeed, the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway or something like that.
“Oh no,” she said. “My Dad used to say to us, ‘Don’t you want to be a baker? Are you sure you don’t want to be a baker?’ Uh, no. We didn’t want to do that.”
“Well, that’s still a way to be creative, right?”
Kari and The Plot Sisters—no joke, all of them—looked at me like I had no idea what I was talking about, so I tried to defend myself. “I guess the baker I know is a creative person and I was thinking of him when I said that.”
“Yeah, no,” one Plot Sister said. “Baking isn’t really a creative thing.”
I didn’t think anything of that conversation until later, after the reception had broken up and I’d gone home. I had put my pajamas on and brushed my teeth, and I simply sat, on my bed, in the silence, so I could think for a few moments in an empty room (something you don’t find during a writing conference).
Suddenly, and inexplicably, really, I thought back to the closing reception and the conversation with Kari. It whipped through my mind again, this time, with a twist.
“My Dad used to say to us, ‘Don’t you want to be a banker? Are you sure you don’t want to be a banker?’ Uh, no. We didn’t want to do that.”
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a twist so much as a moment of clarity. Baker, banker. Tomayto, tomahto. Against the din of the conversation that had surrounded us, I’d misheard the conversation. What can I say? Despite previously priding myself on having great hearing, I guess I can say that I no longer do. Or, I might be able to blame the very long, arduous, intense week that crushed my ability to process auditory information.
Who knows. But this instance, dear people, proves why I write. I’m much better at communicating in the written form than I am at conversation.
So Kari and The Plot Sisters, if you’re reading, please accept my sincerest apologies. And next time we meet, feel free to remind me to have my hearing checked.
Happy Monday! Happy Writing!