Women’s Week 2014

Marsh and lighthouse, Provincetown, Mass.

West End Marsh, Provincetown, Mass. (c) Elaine Burnes

I’ve had the good fortune to attend Women’s Week for several years now and have something to read each time. Sacchi Green started it all by organizing a reading for a group of us at Vixen. A dark, black room with harsh spotlights on us readers at the front.

Vixen has since been transformed into Sage Inn, with an amazingly beautiful lobby and room for events (same room, actually, just much nicer). Last year I boldly read from my work in progress and this year was able to read from the same WIP but announce its “forthcoming” status. Next year I’ll read from the printed, published copy. I’ll have books to sign.

I believe I am fully prepared psychologically to sit at a table, probably with one or more other authors, and have no one buy my book or ask for an autograph. It happens to everyone. This will be my first book. It’s not a traditional romance, so won’t attract fangirls. I don’t have a base built from writing fan fiction. I don’t know yet if anyone will like it other than my beta readers and editor and publisher. OK, they count for a lot. That’s heady. Getting that email where they say they want the full manuscript. Then getting that email where they say they love it and want to publish it.

Many writers are introverts. Georgia Beers had a blog called An Introvert Expounds. Pol Robinson talked in P’town about how she’ll be on a panel like she was and then hide in her room to recover for a couple hours. So when I say I am shy and introverted, I can’t claim any prize for it. It is, however, positively debilitating. On my way to my reading on Thursday, I forced myself to hand out the postcards I had written on before going inside. It was so hard. The first group I approached turned out to be sister writers. I met Cindy Rizzo and MJ Williamz. They read at Sage as well. I’ve had those postcards thrust in my face, mostly for comics and singers. Sometimes I want them, mostly I don’t. So why would anyone want mine? Those who did take them were very gracious, thanking me. I have no idea if they showed up or if they’ll buy either book (I have a short story in Wicked Things, as well as my novel).

So what’s my point? My point is that as a reader, I get a thrill seeing writers I admire. But how do you separate the writer from the written? Isn’t it enough to like their writing? Do we have to like them too? If I’m judged by my personality, I risk coming across as stuck up, aloof at best perhaps.

I just have no clue what to say to authors, even the ones I adore. “Gee, I loved your book” is a nice start, and I know they are gratified to hear that. But beyond that, I’m speechless. As a writer, I don’t know yet what it will be like to be approached by someone who has read my book and, hopefully, loved it (or else they wouldn’t bother approaching me; unless, I suppose, it’s to tell me it’s the worst waste of money they ever spent and they’d like a refund). I’m not just being modest here. I honestly don’t know if anyone will like it.

You write in anonymity, for yourself, not knowing how it looks to the outside world until you release it—first to beta readers, then as a submission, perhaps only as an excerpt and synopsis, finally the whole thing, edited and proofread within an inch of its life. I’m still in that freefall rush of not knowing how I’ll hit the ground. With a splat or with grace.

Attending Women’s Week is work for me. In many senses of the word. It’s my job as an author to promote my book and stories and Women’s Week is nearby so I feel I must go. I love Provincetown. When my wife and I visit during the summer, we like to swim at Herring Cove, maybe go on a whale watch (this year’s sucked big time; but we’ve been on enough good ones not to mind). In the fall, I’d love to have her come with me, but, frankly, she’d be bored. She’s not into lesfic the way I am. Sure, she’d like to attend a reading or two, but spend four hours inside on a beautiful day? I think not. Plus, she can’t easily go to a restaurant and order a meal. Dietary restrictions suck big time as well. So I’m conflicted about whether to ask her to come next year when I have my first novel to read from and sign and sell. I want her there because I love her and I miss her terribly when she’s not. But it’s also a hassle. Find a cat sitter, find an apartment so we can cook, find someplace near the center of town so we don’t need the car and she can do her own thing while I do mine. We’ll see. If the weather is like this year’s it’d be a lovely vacation for us. Except I’ll have to work…

Leaving P’town was hard. Driving back through my own town, three hours later, I sensed a disconnect. No, those women walking down the street are probably not lesbians. Dogs walk on their feet. They aren’t pushed in a stroller (what was up with that anyway?). The afternoon light isn’t as spectacular (or else my town would have become an artist mecca the way P’town has).

There’s a frenzied, laid-back vibe in P’town. You can go crazy and party your ass off or stroll down quiet streets and enjoy the late-blooming flowers. Sit on a bench and soak up the warm sun while watching gulls circle the harbor.

I love everything about Provincetown. Except the work part.

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3 comments

  1. Congratulations and Welcome to Bink! Yes, it’s work. It’s ALWAYS work, but we do it because we love to write.Starting out is hard and exhilarating, so please enjoy these heady days of jitters and uncertainty–they’re the best!

    1. Thanks, Barrett! So jitters and uncertainty are the best part, huh. Great. What have I gotten myself into! 😉

      1. You’ll be fine 😉

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