Life Story Writing in The Big Apple
Every year my publisher (Writer’s Digest) hosts its annual Writer’s Conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in mid-town New York City. It’s an old dowager kind of place built in 1924 and resembles those grandiose CP Hotels that once dotted the Canadian landscape. Guy Lombardo played Auld Lang Syne there every year and Lawrence Welk started his career in the same building. It’s also been featured in movies such as The Dictator, French Connection, and Wall Street. Today it rates maybe 3-Stars but not much more than that. The elevators are slow and it has that slightly unkempt ambience – perfect for writers.
The Roosevelt has a nice traditional dark bar just off the lobby. The Madison Club Lounge is where I could finally have my favorite cocktail drink, the Tequila Lemon Fresca. I had discovered it there the year before. After the first day sessions ended I drank two in quick succession – on an empty stomach – and had to bail out. After that I was happy with one per day.
I digress. We registered and attended the first couple of sessions. Our plan was for Brenda and me to attend different ones so that we could get as much information as possible. It would have taken too many of us to catch all of them. Bonus: The conference featured a bookshop with lots of relevant titles – and mine was there! What a joy it was to watch as people picked it up – and sometimes bought a copy. I surreptitiously photographed the first time that happened.
The sessions covered every conceivable writing topic. Every genre came alive in its presentation. Fiction, non-fiction, memoir, horror, gothic, romance, traditional publishing, hybrid publishing, self-publishing; something for every starving writer. One of the sessions focused on Acting Like a Writer. The presenter was an actor who did lots of improv comedy. His opening line was: “So you’re an actor. What restaurant do you work in?” It was the one session where I took no notes. He had an engaging manner but I found little substance to his talk. He did say one thing that I will never forget. His wife once called him a charmer. He liked that until she said: “People don’t trust charmers.” The charmer always wants something. I will keep that in mind.
Conferences are important for their networking possibilities. I met many writers, a few agents, and I made some lucky connections. Phil Sexton is my Writer’s Digest Publisher and he is going to get more Writing Your Legacy copies into the Canadian market. I also met the editor of Writer’s Digest Magazine. Everyone was open to friendly discussion. There was a huge cocktail party scheduled for Saturday night, followed by a general author signing party. We had a previous commitment. Hailing a cab down to SoHo, we enjoyed dinner with an internationally acclaimed author/speaker and her erudite sea captain husband in their historic loft. We finally made it back to the hotel at 1:15 AM. It was like meeting old friends.
It’s odd returning to a conference site right after it ends. That happened early Sunday afternoon. There were still remnants of what once was. The signs and posters had been taken down and they lay scattered in heaps on top of desks covered in tangled drapes. I saw one big sign still standing on its pedestal. It was a list of significant authors and their book signing times. At the bottom was another list, this one of all the authors present. My name was there. One memory. Just as the conference was ending I noticed that my books had sold out (which was later confirmed by my publisher). Yay! That meant that I wouldn’t have to do a book signing scheduled for that last hour. I wouldn’t have known what to write.
Later in the day, Brenda and I walked up to the 5th Avenue Barnes & Noble Store. I wasn’t giving up on my dream to see our book on its shelves. While there a year ago I had vowed that I’d see it this time around. Two days earlier, just before this conference started, I had gone there to check – but there were no copies available. I wasn’t giving up. I went back for a second look. And I found it. I found two copies. Shamelessly I bought one of them. I just had to do it. Note to self: In just a few moments, 50 % of the book’s stock in that store had been sold – to me. Finding our book in that huge store on 5th Avenue in New York City was a life highlight.
Our flight out was from LaGuardia. Vice President Joe Bidden has compared it to a ‘third world country’ and it has been ranked as the worst in customer service in the U.S. We experienced that first-hand while trying to order and pay for breakfast. After a quick flight to Buffalo, we drove across the border into Canada and stopped at the St. Catharines Chapters store. Writing Your Legacy was there. Another Yay!
Attending conferences can be expensive. I’ve gone to very few in my life, all of them since I moved to Ontario in 2011. Sometimes I wonder: If I’d attended a few before that time, would my writing career be further ahead now than it is? Probably. But I might also be drinking too much of that Tequila Lemon Fresca.