Midlife Cabernet: Flip Flops and Old Farts


A writer's conference is a unique experience that attracts people with solitary talent who want public acceptance. It's the ultimate irony for tortured poets, aspiring authors, and seasoned professionals who notch titles like trophies in the framework of their published stories.
After a year of planning, the Idaho Writers and Readers Rendezvous is underway. Packets are stuffed, name tags are printed, food is ordered, and speakers are arranged in an attractive program. More than 100 people registered to be enlightened, encouraged, and educated about the complicated requirements of writing, publication, and promotion. As a member of the volunteer board of the Idaho Writers Guild, I work with other volunteers to keep the conference going. In former lives, most of us were paid to organize similar events. We've concluded that we must be crazy.
I took a break during the activities and sneaked into an empty meeting room. That's when I noticed I was still wearing my jeweled flip flops. My "big girl shoes" were in my bag, but I hadn't had time to change. I had worn the flip flops early in the morning because I needed to haul in boxes for the registration table and heels were out of the question. Obviously, it didn't matter by late afternoon. The flip flops would remain.
The events were going smoothly except for one issue. One of our attendees was a pig. Right out of central casting, he was the Old Fart who hit on women and muttered comments such as, "I like to look at name tags because that's the only time I get to stare at a woman's breasts." Really? Did he mistake this for a 1950's Rat Pack convention?
We monitored the situation and decided to confront the man if he continued to make sexist remarks. Some of us were mentally calculating how to include his character as the annoying jerk in our next short stories. Writers have a creative way of dealing with obnoxious people. We write about them. Exceptionally bad ones become victims of flesh-eating monsters or are doomed to watch reruns of Hee Haw.
The conference has 20 speakers, 21 workshops, pitch sessions with agents, evening readings, and banquet speakers. The workshops cover timely topics including writing, editing, design, marketing, self-publishing, and screenwriting. We organized the first conference three years ago and several attendees have published books since then. Most have not. But, they come back with the hope of improving their skills and of telling their stories.
By Saturday night, our goal is that the participants will leave the conference feeling satisfied and energized about writing. It's an addictive habit that spans the generations and continues to evolve from paint on caves to quills to pens to computers. Writers write because the words are waiting to appear, and with the right timing, training, and motivation, the stories will be told.
At the last cocktail social, if the Old Fart slides up to me and asks if I need a little company, I'll smile and say, "No thank you. I just bought one." Works every time.

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