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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Truth About Harvard Writers

In the early, misty days of April I was privileged with a chance to attend the Harvard Writer’s Conference as a supplement to my editorial internship with book writing coach, Lisa Tener. The heavily anticipated weekend lived up to every wild concoction my nerves imagined. As an introduction to the inner-workings of the publishing industry, the flustered, tension-filled meeting room of seductively intimidating insiders offered an essential reality check. The marvelous Fairmont hotel function room had a heartbeat. And it was racing.

Hundreds of names, book pitches and rehearsed jokes bombarded me as I shadowed my inundated supervisor handling the tidal wave of authors like a season pro. I could merely listen and hope I retained every word. But my mental bookshelf only had room for so many volumes. On a whim I decided to brave the waters on my own. Venturing into the nearby workshops, I soaked up as much information as each presenter provided. Chicken-scratch notes recorded the most pertinent points. Finding hope. That stuck. The speaker prompted everyone to quickly describe a peaceful, remote island. Soft white sand washing rhythmically with the surf. A refreshing breeze saturated with salt. The cheerful calls of tropical creatures.

I connected with nearby attendants sporting a familiar, daunted stare. “What do you write about?” I was surprised that’s all it took. The knot in my shoulders untied as I found a common ground. Knowing everyone harbored similar dreams and goals made the rest of the conference as comfortable as a blue-sky summer cook-out with family laughing around the smoky charcoal grill. A blur of casual meals, miniaturized think-tank’s and rickety train rides to and from Boston became the patchwork of memories I took from this highly sought after collection of experts and future experts. Of all the workshops I wondered which would improve my writing. A mother from the suburbs I spoke with questioned if she could write her book. Everyone that pitched dwelled on their flights home if the agents would offer a contract. Really, we were all seeking hope. And I believe this conference is where we found it.