We moved to the Birch room to hear debut authors tell us about their novels. The noise level was high, and the microphone broadcast author voices with widely varying success, but we did hear about some great new fiction.
Conference chair Clay Stafford interviewed A. J. Tata. The General said he always wanted to be an author. He puts everything he’s got into a story. After he thinks he’s said everything he can, then the next idea comes along.
General Tata experienced an epiphany in his twenties while watching television. He asked himself why he was consuming entertainment when he wanted to be the one creating entertainment. A career in the military kept him from realizing his writing dream until years later.
Great lines from A. J. Tata’s interview:
You’re never too old to get shot.
The last thing I want in my camp is a dead general.
Writing is butt in seat time.
General Tata told a story about delivering USO mail bags to troops in a remote camp in Afghanistan. He reminded the audience about the importance of sending To Any Soldier letters and packages.
Bryan Robinson let each panelist introduce him or herself, telling a bit about what had happened in our writing careers to make lightening up necessary. I gave my experience of being a Five Star orphan, having two novels published, then receiving an email from the publisher in January 2016 that they were ending their entire mystery line. This earned a few gasps, and some heads nodding in knowing agreement.
Great lines from the Lighten Up panel:
Bryan: Rejection is not fatal or final.
Sheila Sobel: Understand the difference between critique and criticism.
Warren Moore: When you receive criticism, listen with wide open ears. The comments may pass right through, but some may stick.
I shared that being kicked to the curb by an agent or publisher was not the end of the world. If you were a factory worker, and the doors closed, you’d go out and find another job.
Sheila: Sit down and write what you love, and you’re in for the ride of your life.
Bob Mangeot gained perspective when a friend told him, “you’re doing something a lot of us would love to do.” He recommending asking yourself “why am I writing,” understand that purpose, and build a writing routine that saves that.
Bryan shared the insight that it was “How am I treating my writing life, not how is my writing life treating me.”
After my panel, I snuck away with my husband to do some sightseeing. We toured a Confederate Army cemetery, saw the Natchez Trace bridge, and ran into what was probably a copy of the General Lee, the car from Dukes of Hazard television show – slideshow below. Then we hurried back to get me to my next panel, which I moderated.
My report on Killer Nashville continues next Tuesday.