I had landed at LAX at 10 in the morning. I left behind a greening ranch and a vibrant pond singing at nights with chorus frogs. So far, all I could see of LA was hazy blue sky and concrete parking platforms. I waited for my Super Shuttle and slid across the back seat when it came.
It was a full load. Three more passengers packed into the backseat and it became the clichéd sardine can. At least no one smelled fishy. I leaned into the long horizontal van window, ready to see the sights. I had no idea where I was going or what this city looked like.
The first tall palms that lined the airport road were dry and brown. More brown palms and then an appalling hedge of brittle brown leaves. Somehow it supported the occasional red flower. Dread came over me and I felt as though I were driving through an apocalypse.
Yet the famous LA freeways were choked with cars, the ever present sign of human life. Everywhere I looked all the vegetation was brown. Would they have to cut down the big gnarled trees with brown leaves? Would a strong wind topple the palms? With the return of water, would these plants revive?
It bothered me that so many people drove past the brown trees, plants and hedges as if life as usual would take precedence, never mind the land is dead or dying. It reminded me of the scorching summer that refused to end in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Crops died, trees turned brittle and a hot wind blew.
Then I shifted my perspective. Unable to take the brown landscape I looked straight ahead. Wait I see green. Looking out the driver’s windshield three rows of bench seats before mine, I could see the dusky green of trees. I saw hedges green with brilliant fuchsia flowers. Palms towered with some bedraggled dead under-leaves but the fronds were green.
Turning out my side window I realized this was some tint I had never experienced before. Evidently purple tinted windows block green in the color spectrum. Who knew? Not a buckaroo from Idaho, that’s for certain. This created an optical illusion of brown dead vegetation. Relief flooded through me! The world had not turned brown after all.
LA BinderCon was one amazing moment after the other, once I came to grips with nature in LA. First, the Hub’s brother and wife were “in town.” They live in northern Nevada so what were the chances? We were able to grab a quick breakfast together.
Here’s a an overview of highlights and action-points:
- Talk to the person sitting next t you on the airplane. He just might be a t.v. producer willing to give you his agent’s phone number.
- Be willing to walk into a crowed hall, knowing absolutely no one because eventually you’ll make new friends. I now have a circle of t.v. writer friends who tell the best stories and taught me how to pitch.
- Literary writers don’t know how to pitch. That’s because we write synopses, which can vary in length and scope depending upon the recipient. When we pitch face-to-face we can read others’ reactions. From this, I fine-tuned what was most compelling about my novel.
- T.v. writers pitch all the time. They are fast with ideas and in touch with what sells. They are also collaborative, working together on shows in the writer’s room. We can learn from t.v. writers how to hone our ideas and work with others on projects.
- Don’t mind living in LA? Want to make money from writing? T.v. writers average $4-6K a week.
- Women writers showed up. Our voices are growing, but we need to quicken the pace. And we need to submit to publications. Women are being published, but way more men are submitting their writing.
- Community is the pipeline. Get engaged, get involved. Someone knows what you need to learn; someone needs what you know. Be authentic. Build authentic relationships. Get trusted feedback. Create a respected sounding board.
- You will hear 8,000 no’s. You only need one yes.
- How to write an inclusive audience that reflects the beauty and complexities of this world. Tell complex stories. Share your own story of being “other.”
- Personal essays are still viable ( I nearly cheered out loud). This is what I used to write before print media tanked. I’ve learned where the markets shifted and what is valued. This is one way to build credibility. Have your manuscript ready.
- Two legalities to know when writing memoir: disclosure of facts about others and defamation.
- How thought leaders rise. We connect with our value to the world. Writing and having a public voice comes from having an awareness of your value.
- Reporting on sexual violence is a big crisis in this country. A news anchor from Canada says it is a global problem.
- Don’t be afraid to pitch your region to a large NYC foundation. They might take you up on it.
- Lead with your brand (who you are), tell your story and be prepared to answer questions of credibility. The publisher I met with wanted to know if I researched the military. I said I married my research.
- Get an agent. This was told to me directly by the publisher.
- When pitching to an agent not exactly a perfect match, explain why you are pitching to her (I liked that she was an entrepreneur). She is giving my first 50 pages to a colleague to read. Take a chance, but make a connection.
- The best chance for a publisher to pick up a Carrot Ranch anthology is to find a regional press. Sounds odd for a global mix of writers, but that was direct advice from a publisher. Okay!
- Stay long, learn hard and go home full of strategies for what to do next.
- Beverly Hills has cobblestone and gilded alley-ways.
The biggest click that happened in my brain has to do with building the writer’s platform. Starting this week, I’m going to do a series of posts on that because I now understand the missing gaps I had, and I think it is a timely subject for this community. Whether you recognize it or not, you’ve been discussing platform issues. I think I can help clarify vital points to help other writers decide how to apply their platform building efforts in more effective ways.
What an amazing trip and conference. New friends, new ideas, new connections and new hope for my career. Thank you to this community for support and encouragement. Professionals in the industry were interested in what we are doing at Carrot Ranch to build community. And thank you to all who kept the flow going last week!
Because I was hanging out with t.v. writers, I’m leaning toward the dramatic this week. It is also April 1 and the symbolic month of honoring the earth. If we don’t nurture the earth, drastic consequences can unfold. Connecting that back to my frightening optical illusion, we will write 99-word earth epics this week.
April 1, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about the day the earth turned brown. How did it happen? What else might be going on? It can be dramatic or even humorous. It can be the greater globe or a localized occurrence. It can be an aftermath or a revival. Follow where the prompt leads you.
Respond by April 6, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
When it Happened by Charli Mills
It felt like a shadow, creeping up my back. At first I thought it was a thunderhead, scudding across the midday sun. I knelt in freshly turned soil to finger a trench for stony beet seeds. When the crows flew overhead in silence, I finally looked up.
Like some grand dust storm from Arizona, a mass of brown clouds roiled like sediment, churning the sky. A volcano? No wind. No dust. A brown haze descended. It wilted green grass and shriveled clover. Water ran like mud. Electricity dimmed and batteries frothed. My beets never saw the light of day.
Just a bit of trivia: the disaster movie, Dantes Peak, was filmed in this area. If you’ve seen the movie, the picture is one I took of the lake where the water turns to acid in a dramatic scene. My area does look like a profusion of volcanic peaks!