The First Writer's Digest Editor's Intensive (And a Boy's First Snowman)

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Today's guest post is by the generous Darrelyn Saloom, who has brought numerous new readers to my blog. I thank her and I thank you. Follow Darrelyn on Twitter.

Imagine writing a book (any genre, fiction or nonfiction),
typing away for ages and then opening an e-mail that says Writer’s Digest (a magazine you’ve enjoyed for years) is having an
event (their first) called the Writer’s Digest Editor's Intensive. And, if you
attend, an editor will read fifty pages of your manuscript—fifty pages!—to be read by a professional, not your mother, or
sister who stopped answering her phone.

Excited to receive such an e-mail, I wanted to go. But did I
want to fly to Ohio in December? It gets cold in Ohio, and I live in the South.
So far south it only snows once every five years—at the most. And rarely sticks
to the ground. The cold sort of scared me. And the name of the event scared me,
too: An Editor's Intensive. I imagined a
group of editors, squinting at manuscripts, lines etched between brows, faces frozen
in frowns.

But fifty pages of manuscript! For the past two years I’d
been working with boxing champion, Deirdre Gogarty, on her memoir.And in those (inevitable?) moments of
doubt, we had questions: Are we headed in the right direction? Or wasting our
time? We wanted answers. And if Deirdre and I both signed up, we could submit a
hundred pages!

So we signed up online. And the first thing I did was buy a
Michelin-Man coat. Down-filled and puffy. And warm—make that hot, worn indoors
made me sweat—a lot. I bought gloves and socks, a scarf and wool cap, while
Deirdre (who packed a light jacket) found someone to feed her two cats.

And then we flew to Cincinnati (actually to Kentucky but on
the state line). Into a taxi to Hannaford Suites, no need to rent a car. Okay,
we needed a car. But managed just fine (thank you Sharon Pielemeier and Barbara
Weibel for the rides!). After the first day, Chuck, Jane, and Alice left us
wiser than wise (and their faces were not frozen in frowns or squinting
lines!).

We learned
about Facebook and Twitter, WordPress and blogging, platform and publishing.
And made the kind of friends you keep for life: Other writers from around the
country who were as nervous as Deirdre and I. For the next day was Sunday, the
day of our appointed critique. So Saturday night, a group of us went out to
eat.

And then we
searched for bookstores, which closed by nine. So we pressed our noses to the
windows and visualized: the books of Barbara Weibel, Sean Miller, Kent Ostby,
Caitlin O’Sullivan, Amber Gardner, Mark Benedict, Deirdre Gogarty, and mine. It
was magical, really. Bonded by a desire to publish stories we write. And by
doubts, questions, and obstacles that plague a writer’s life.

On Sunday, we huddled together and waited our turn. We discussed
our manuscripts and scanned faces of fellow writers as they emerged.And every one I talked to went in
nervous but left satisfied. Some were sobered by reality, others floated on
cloud-nine. But questions were answered, and manuscripts were marked with
professional advice: Valuable information that defied any price.

Never wore the down-filled coat at the conference.Turned out Deirdre was right to pack
only a light jacket (though I brought one of those, too). I’ve only worn my
Michelin-Man coat once since I bought it last year.A short time later, the magic I found in Cincinnati seemed
to follow me home—and it snowed. So I bundled up and played outside. And my
grandson, Milas, built the first real snowman of his life.