Well, I'm stuck in Chicago for a couple of hours, so I thought I'd recap the first ever Greenhouse retreat, or at least the part of it I was there for. I'm missing out on a couple of events this morning since I had to fly out at 6 a.m.
I guess I'll start with this: You know what's weird? Exchanging daily emails with someone, sharing your success and heartbreaks and little monotonies, reading countless versions of their manuscripts... for THREE YEARS and never meeting them in person.
Sarah Davies electronically introduced me to Megan Miranda shortly after I'd signed my agency contract. Megan had just gone through the revision process with her and was able to walk (at times, crawl) me through as I went through the same thing. Soon we were debating the merits of various snack foods and lamenting how difficult it was to get in a few hours of writing while juggling mom and career duties. She's honestly one of my best friends.
And so when I saw her walking toward me in the hotel lobby, it was totally natural for us to do the slow motion, arms outspread, long lost friend run toward each other. Strangers chuckled and shook their heads as we did our happy dances and jumped up and down and clapped, so excited to finally meet each other. There was a similar routine when I met Ashley and Elle (both members of the now defunct "blue" critique group).
I think that was the best part of the trip for me. Well, besides meeting Sarah. She kept making me cry by giving these beautiful speeches throughout the retreat. I've always felt so grateful to work with her, and my mom loved her so much, too, calling her "practically perfect in every way." Sarah is probably the most passionate writing mentor I've ever known. That's why she called the agency Greenhouse, because she doesn't expect to pluck a perfect manuscript out of a pile, toss it at an editor, and cash her check. She's taught me so much about the craft of writing.
I took about three pages of notes during her speech yesterday, but my biggest takeaway was her reference to a Graham Green quote: "Perhaps a novelist has a greater ability to forget than other men--he has to forget or become sterile. What he forgets is the compost of the imagination." She talked about how everything that's ever happened to us is inside somewhere, even though the memory may have deteriorated. It remains in our feelings and ideals and beliefs. All of these experiences contribute to who we are as people, and this is what we draw on when we write. She challenged us to examine what we want to say to the world, what our truth is that we want to leave behind.
It is with this in mind that I'll be preparing to write book #4, another contemporary standalone (SNSB), a premise I've been toying with since probably freshman year of college. It's going to require a lot of research, some of it hands on, and to be completely honest with you, some of it really freaks me out. But it's an issue that I really care about, so that's where I'm going next. I'd share more details, but we're talking about a book that won't be out for two years, so... sorry.
More to come, I promise!