Jeff’s Il Duce Pose
This year I was once again invited to give a seminar on plotting a novel at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference held in New York City at the rockin’ Roosevelt Hotel. Sure, I’m a cheap date because I live in New Jersey and thus can be booked for this conference for the cost of two drink tickets, but that’s actually kind of true no matter where your event is being held. Am I saying that you can have Jeff Somers giving a speech in your living room for the price of two free cocktails? Yes, I am saying that. But it better be top shelf. We will not tolerate any of that Early Times bullshit.
Anyway, I digress. I gave the same seminar I gave last year: Take Off Your Pants and Write: Pantsing Vs. Plotting a Novel. It’s all about plotting your story and the two main techniques most people naturally gravitate towards, and how you can get out of blocked situations by using a hybrid approach. It’s rather brilliant. I’m hilarious. I even wore pants!
Unlike last year, this year we will refer to the WDAC as The Year of Competence, because with the help and guidance of The Duchess I was pretty much an adult the entire time, which, as we all know, is unusual.
I Need a Stinkin’ Badge
JEFF’S TIMELINE OF COMPETENCE
6AM: I am actually awake, despite consuming a lot of whiskey and some wine over dinner the evening before. Yes, my way of prepping for a big day of public speaking is to drink heavily. What of it?
8AM: I am actually on a bus, showered, sober, and dressed like either a published author or a middle-aged schoolteacher, I’m not sure which. I actually had all of my props and a backup of the presentation on a thumb drive. I make a mental note to drink more, as it obviously helps me wake up early, clearheaded and organized.
8:45AM: I am actually at the hotel and have my badge and know where my seminar is being held. This is unprecedented. The year before, I was racing around this hotel like a maniac, wide-eyed and sweating freely.
8:55AM: The Duchess, concerned that I do not know how to make my Power Point Presentation appear on the screen, stomps to the laptop and starts touching things. The screen goes black. The Duchess turns away and resumes her seat and refuses to discuss what we should do next.
9AM: A nice technical person comes and fixes what The Duchess has wrought. She looks around and whistles nonchalantly.
9:01AM: I am actually giving my presentation, and it goes well. Last year I finished up with my prepared material 20 minutes into a 50-minute session, and had to soft-shoe, sing, and take questions for half an hour. This year almost none of that is necessary. Well, the soft-shoe isn’t strictly-speaking necessary, but I do it anyway, to thunderous applause.
10AM: After some gladhanding and chatting with attendees, we stalk my agent by following the scent of brimstone. I am hopeful that she will buy me alcoholic refreshments despite the time of day, but she is too clever for me: She leads us to the bar area, sits down and makes cryptic remarks about the state of my career, shouts HEY LOOK OVER THERE and when I turn back there is only a haze of purple smoke.
11AM: The Duchess and I go to lunch. I’m not sure whether managing to eat a burger and drink several beers without incident can be listed under my accomplishments for the day, as most people manage to feed themselves without trouble. But, as The Duchess is fond of saying, I am not most people.
NOON – 3PM: Lost time. I have no memory. I am still checking the news for mentions of a drunk white man taking off his pants somewhere.
3:00PM: We’re back at the hotel, and hit the bar, where I drink several whiskies while engaged in a war with a cloud of gnats who all intend to commit suicide in my drinks. After three of the little buggers die in my tumbler, I start drinking like I’m in prison, hunched over my glass and muttering and twitching. Or, you know, like usual. Yes, I drank it anyway. This is whiskey we’re talking about.
Jeff Merely Pawn in Game of Life
5:30PM: I am at my assigned spot in the ballroom for the cocktail reception-slash-book signing. Jacqueline Woodson is seated at the table next to me. Her line goes out the door. I have no line. I am sad.
But, because of this newfound competence, I stick it out and eventually my people find me. My people, I think, had their priorities straight: Getting to the bar first with their drink tickets so they could double-fist the booze as quickly as possible. I meet a few folks, sign some books, and have those curiously awkward conversations where you have to shout so much you’re hoarse. A few folks buy copies of We Are Not Good People and I fall asleep, and The Duchess carries me home.
So, here’s to a job: Done. Hopefully they invite me back next year so I can try the opposite approach: Total batshit incompetence. This would be for scientific purposes, of course, to see which approach works better.