Terry Brooks, The Dark Side

Okay, that title is a bait and switch. Terry Brooks doesn’t have a dark side. Well, he’s not pretty when he’s mad, but he only gets mad for good reason, and I take good care not to be one of those reasons, so I’m here to tell you, Terry Brooks is not only a scholar and a gentleman, he’s a cupcake.

We all just spent the weekend at the Surrey International Writers Conference (or the Surrey Writers International Conference, I’m a little fuzzy on the details) which was a lot of fun, not just because the conference was well-organized,–although it was, very–but because there were such good people there. Like Terry and Judine Brooks. And Don and Carol McQuinn. And Jo Beverley and Don Maass and. . .

And it occurs to me that I really should get some friends who aren’t in the publishing industry. The thing is, I have to write all the time, and then, as part of the career, I go to writers conferences, so it’s pretty much publishing 24/7. Which can be a very good thing because there are so many good people out there, like the Brookses and the McQuinns and a terrific writer named Brooke, who showed up for her fifteen-minute critique appointment and said, “I love your books. Can we just make out?’ And you know, there just aren’t enough people who ask me that. So I said yes.

Where was I? Right. Surrey. So all I do is write and all I see are writers, but then I get to see the country, too, right? Or in this case, Canada? Well, no. I love British Columbia but I didn’t get to see much of it since it was all airports, highways, and hotels, your basic conference experience. Next year Bob and I are going to fly into Seattle and see people there (more writers, but enough name-dropping already) and then drive up because it’s supposed to be two and a half hours of gorgeous scenery with a time-out to get strip-searched by Customs at the border. Bob and I are pretty sure we can make two and a half hours in a car together without killing each other, although if he shows up at the Surrey hotel next year without me, do not believe any stories about me deciding to leave the trip halfway through, I will have been shoved out along the highway, screaming. Probably on the Canadian side; he’ll wait until after the strip search, just for the entertainment value.

So it’s always writers, which is probably not healthy but is definitely fun because we talk about work and about each other—here’s a surprise, writers gossip—and the big news this year was that Bob flew in early to do a master class and somebody stole his laptop. Because he’s Bob, he’d backed up everything onto the hard drive before he left, so he didn’t lose anything except a very nice Mac G4, but to add insult to injury, they took his teaching notes, too. And I realize later, a lot of rash e-mails from me that I am now praying will not end up on the internet. No, not that kind. The kind where I sob and scream that my career is over. The kind where I rage at Bob for something he’s done that was bad but not that bad. The kind where I say indiscreet things about people who are not Terry Brooks. That kind. But I’m pretty sure he doesn’t save my e-mails. Hell, he doesn’t even read most of them, especially the long ones. I can say obscene and terrifying things to him, and as long as I put them in the second paragraph, he’ll e-mail back and say, “OK.” For a while he was saying “PK” which drove me crazy because I didn’t know what it meant until he explained that it was a typo for “OK.” I figured it was arcane Special Forces code. It was quite a letdown.

Where was I? Right, in Surrey with Terry Brooks. Terry gave a great keynote about finding time to write. He was pretty vehement about it. He also asked the room to sing Happy Birthday to Bob (it was his birthday Friday) which I had NOTHING to do with. Much. My keynote ripped off Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, but I said it was a rip-off and mentioned Chris’s name loudly, so I think that makes it okay. And Bob compared writing to jumping out of an airplane and it was damn good. The best part about all three was that we all sat at the same table so we could heckle. And in Bob’s case, whine, because there was a program when I did my keynote because the awards had been given the night before so they printed up the winners for the night I spoke, which meant there was a piece of paper that said, “Keynote: Jennifer Crusie.” Bob decided if he didn’t get a program with his name on it, he wasn’t doing his keynote the next morning. I wasn’t worried; Bob has the short term memory of a fruit fly. Sure enough, the next morning he got up there and wowed the crowd even though there was no program. My writing partner: I think I’ll keep him.

So I got to talk to a lot of great people about their books and have breakfast with ten Cherries and brainstorm more of Agnes on Sunday afternoon, and now I’m home and I have to finish Trudy and write Agnes’s first scene and collage Mare and get Charlotte organized. So basically, it’s still writing and writers, 24/7. Fortunately for me, that’s a damn good life and a damn good bunch of people.

Especially Terry Brooks, who is wonderful. No dark side at all. Really.

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