Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Writing, rocking and roller derby!

Before I get into the weekend's writing conference, I have some exciting news to share with you.

No. Not that.

This: Last week, I was asked to be the bench coach for my wife's roller derby team, the Hard Knocks. She was drafted by the team a few weeks ago. It's one of three new teams in the local league.

Tonight will be my first practice with the team (yes, they call themselves The Knockers, but I'm just not there yet). I'm a bit nervous, since I know next to nothing about roller derby. But that's okay. We're all learning. And the season doesn't actually start until spring, so we should have plenty of time to get things rolling, so to speak.

The bench coach decides who skates when, since getting your skaters onto the floor within the allotted time is crucial to avoiding penalties. I will have a hand in strategy insofar as picking the jammer, blockers and pivot for each jam. My goal will be to have the skaters out there who will best be able to score points, based on which group of skaters the other teams deploys.

It sounds kind of complicated, and I fear it will be. But I love sports, I'm competitive as hell and I'm a fast learner. It ought to be a blast.

We have a smattering of exhibition bouts over the winter, starting with this Saturday in the Quad Cities. It's a newbie-only bout, so the wife won't be skating, and I won't be coaching. But the whole league is going to cheer on the local girls.

For those of you who haven't seen today's roller derby, do yourself a favor and find out if there's a league near you. And then go to the bouts. Or better yet, if you are female and between the ages of 18 and 50, try out. It's incredibly fun, damned addicting and not at all like the cheesy roller derby of the 1970s. These women take it seriously. There's plenty of action, blood and excitement.

Rock on, girls!

Now, on to more literary pursuits, namely this past weekend's Writer's Digest Editor's Intensive conference at WD's cool new digs in suburban Cincinnati.

Fifty writers of all genres and skill levels converged on the conference for a long day Saturday of lectures and speeches from the likes of Chuck Sambuchino and Jane Friedman. They discussed everything from how to snag an agent to using social media (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc.) to further your career and boost your writing platform.

It was very informative. But the best thing was socializing with other writers. Now that was cool. We had an even mix of men and women ranging in age from early twenties to about seventy. Some were from the Cincy area, but many of us came from all over the U.S., including Hawaii. We had a lovely meet-and-greet Saturday night.

But the main event was Sunday, when we had our one-on-one critique session with an WD editor. I believe there were six or seven editors who did the actual critiquing. We all sent the first 50 pages of our manuscripts in several weeks ago and the editors decided the match-ups.

I got Zach Petit, the managing editor of WD! Turns out he has a journalism background very similar to mine, and writes fiction that's similar in theme to mine.

But man, was I nervous.

[Caution: Some bragging ahead. Proceed at your own peril]

It went very well. VERY well. In fact, he said he had very little to critique. Instead, he asked me tons of questions about my background, how long it took to write TDYDK, whether I'm writing anything new, what it's about, etc. He gave me some advice on agents who might be interested in my work. We also talked (and laughed) about our journalism careers. Zachary Petit is a very cool, very helpful man. I was lucky to get him for the critique.

He even said he was dying to know how the book ends. When I told him, he asked several more questions and then said it sounded like "one hell of a ride." He also said he might email me for a copy of the entire thing, although he would prefer "reading it when it comes out."

Wow. I was thrilled that the managing editor of WD would like my work. Really, truly humbled. He even asked me if I was interested in pitching some story ideas to the magazine. I was damn near in tears when I left the session. I mean, me? Writing for Writer's Digest?

So I came home rejuvenated and ready to rock and roll. I rewrote the query for TDYDK with the help of a dear writer friend (Thanks Christi!) and fired it out to seven more agents, including some fairly big names. I mean, there's nothing like a shot of confidence to overcome my deep-seated insecurities.

And this morning I got .... another form rejection.


Oh well. It's kind of nice to get back to normal again. But this time, I have some much-needed confidence to keep at it. Finally.


  1. Good things come to those who persevere.

    Writing for the Writer's Digest - brilliant!

    All it'll take now, is for your query letter to fall on the right agents desk. You'll see :)

  2. This reminds me of the way I have been feeling lately, namely that my book is just fine as long as I stumble across those people for whom it was truly written.

  3. You're welcome. And keep querying or I'll drive up there and kick your ass.

  4. First, I think you are going to make an excellent bench coach for the roller derby team.

    And I am SOOOO excited to read the managing editor of Writes Digest LIKED your work so much that he might even be interested in having you pitch ideas to the magazine!

    That is HUGE news!

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