By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson
From December 29, 2011
Part of my series of columns on publishing, Writing on the Ether, appearing Thursdays at JaneFriedman.com
That’s no New Year, that’s conference season
Not until I saw James Scott Bell going over into the mosh pit at the last Writer’s Digest Conference did I really understand the appeal. Revisionist? Who, me? Donald Maass and Janet Reid glided by, wrapped up in their rose-shredding agents’ tango panel. The crowd loved our own Jane Friedman‘s self-publishing session laser show. And the look on those writers’ faces when The Rockettes got in behind Chuck Sambuchino for the “Pitch Perfect” opener. Who knew they could kick that high in garden gnome outfits?
The tote baggers’ secret is that while everybody else gets drunk for New Year, the publishing industry is fortifying itself for ConfabWorld.
Like ferries arriving at Paros from the mainland, these de-iced gatherings barge in to hotel ballrooms, crossing paths with the worst possible winter weather. The fact that sunny, warm, state-of-the-art conference facilities exist in the Southern Climes (where nothing is Pret a Manger) is of no interest to our badge ‘n’ lanyard faithful. Suffer the Sheraton guests to come unto me. It’s going to be a boffo bunch of bashes.
Dan Blank of We Grow Media and I are planning a series of informational pre-confab pieces for you in 2012, more about that soon. And I’ll be tweet-storming the dramatic recitations and balletic debates, barre the door.
Meanwhile, writers are shaking off their Solitude+ accounts and rushing to beat the groundhog to daylight for #WDC12, January 20-22. Code WDCTWEET gets you $50 off your full registration, don’t tarry. Full info is here.
Publishers, so fond of each other, will be pouring into the open road for the colorful Digital Book World (DBW12) Parade up Big Sixth Avenue, hang a left at West 53rd, along with agents-still-standing, editors, and hangers-on-by-their-fingernails. Full info.
White knuckles give way to backpacked herd-drives in sweltering Chicago, February 29-March 3, for AWP12, the academics’ answer — attended last year by more than 9,000 sturdy souls. Full info.
Plus there’s Michael Cader and Mike Shatzkin’s Publishers Launch (don’t they, though?); IfBookThen; O’Reilly Media’s mighty TOC-around-the-block (#toccon); the San Francisco Writers Conference; TOC poco Bologna; South by You Know What, that yellowed rose, keep it between your teeth, more tangos to come.
Sometimes our conferences seem more disruptive than supportive of prudent, workaday progress. Frequently, the talk seems cyclical and the check-in lines biblical. The party-hardiness of some meetup-tweetup types can go from professional to confessional fast. And sure, we saw at least one keynote misfire last year, between the search for a power outlet and the wonder of wavering wi-fi.
But the major conferences — bolstered by smaller regional and more specialized events — form markers in each new year, the better-lit features of a landscape to come.
And this should be a season fraught with incident. If there’s one constant we’re now getting used to, it’s change in the industry’s dynamics and pressure to push things farther down the road toward utter exhaustion. Shoot up a flare if you get lost out there. It’s in the conferences, particularly the winter crop, that focus and formula may be discovered, even if unrecognized at the outset.
It appears that everybody’s determined to go ahead with this 2012 business, so we’re in the chute, we’re suiting up, getting down, rolling over, and there had better be enough limes this time.
To celebrate the slightly slower speed of the groggy year-end data-stream this week, our first gulp of Ether involves issues-authorial. Amazon can wait. How’s that for a gas? Busy Bezos knows that without the writer, even he’s not ready for Prime time. Just ask Margaret Atwood at your next conference. She prefers cheese sandwiches.
Hm. Bezos country. Seattle. Greatly Northwestern, rainy but replete with convention hotels. I’m thinking an Amazon Writers Conference. Over the air updates. Because we don’t have enough confabs.
You go ahead and read some Ether. I’ll be on the phone with customer service about this.