ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Rosslyn Boathouse in August 2005

Rosslyn Dockhouse

Another Rosslyn dockhouse sighting, this time discovered via Google Earth. The photo was taken by czechsteve on on 2005/08/12 which is approximately one year before my wife and I purchased Rosslyn. The wooden Chris Craft on a mooring between our boathouse and the Essex ferry dock belonged to our neighber, but he has since replaced it with a sailboat which is visible in more recent photographs.

If you go click through to the original photo and enlarge it, you can see the degree of disrepair that we inherited when we took ownership and began restoring this stately old maritime structure.

I have contacted the photoprapher to suggest a title because the image is currently untitled.

Update: Today is Wednesday, February 2, 2011 and I’ve just heard from the photographer:

I have added a title to your boathouse picture. Thanks for your input – I have seen that boathouse for many years (I’ve been coming for summers in the Adirondacks since I was a teenage student at the Meadowmount School of Music coming from Texas to study violin.)

Was the boathouse there in 1980? I don’t remember when I first saw it from the ferry crossing but I have always enjoyed seeing it – that is why I took the photo years ago…I can’t wait to see what you have done…

All best wishes! Steven Rochen – a.k.a. czechsteve!

Wonderful response. I’m excited to have made the connection, and I’m hoping that I may one day have the chance to meet Steven Rochen and give him a tour of the boat house which has intrigued him for decades.

Worst Ice Skater or Best Entertainer?

Does your Monday morning need a booster shot? The latest public improv mission by Improv Everywhere will smear a grin across your mug. I promise.

Produced in collaboration with Ice Theatre of New York, “Worst ice skater ever?” opens with an apparently novice ice skater stranded alone on the rink at New York’s Bryant Park. His transformation from clutz to expert is funny, yes, but also beautiful in that way you’ll find hard to explain to your colleagues at work…

Mentors & Mavericks: Writer’s Digest Conference 2011

On January 21-23 I attended the 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference. I arrived focused on my book, my book pitch and my publishing goals. I left focused on new friends and acquaintances, a community of writers and publishing industry professionals who shared their visions, ambitions, guidance and encouragement. Listen to my wide wandering reflection on this transformation or read audio transcription.

I’ve collected the social media artifacts from those three days into an illuminating if cumbersome archive of the event:

I’ll continue to curate and weave my commentary into this collaborative coverage in the days ahead. Please contact me (@virtualDavis) to recommend blog posts, etc. that I’ve overlooked. Thanks!

The highlight of the Writer’s Digest Conference was the people. I’m referring to both the  presenters and the other attendees. As a writer, I find that it’s all too easy to disconnect — to become isolated — not socially but professionally. And yet, I love to connect and interact. I yearn for feedback and criticism and guidance and encouragement. This is a big reason why I teach, act, blog, flinflan, tweet and tell stories. Writing demands connecting and community. Last weekend’s conference delivered both, engaging me directly with writers, readers, publishing veterans and innovators.

In addition to the curated archives above, I’ll blog on several of the most memorable presentations over the next week or two. I’d like to start today by acknowledging one presenter who profoundly impacted me, Jane Friedman (@janefriedmanThis woman’s a dynamo! Behind those coquettish ringlets and a smile that feels like a bear hug from an old friend, Jane Friedman is all genius. No joke. And not only publishing-smart, but savvy-smart. And generous-smart.

You see, I was Friedman’s student even before attending her “Your Publishing Options” session on Saturday morning. She didn’t know it; she didn’t even know me. But her No Rules blog has been a critical component of my crowdsourced MFA in recent months. Then, a little over a week ago, I attended her “3 Secrets for Selling Your Nonfiction Book Live Webinar“. Ninety minutes of real-time Friedman instructing me how to compose an effective book query. Great class!

She answered questions and disected queries submitted by participants in the webinar. My learning curve went vertical. But the most helpful was yet to come. I’d mentioned to Friedman that I’d be pitching my book at #wdc11, so she revised my bloated book overview into an amuse-bouche to tempt literary agents during the Pitch Slam. And she did so almost immediately despite the fact that she was preparing for her battery of presentations and traveling halfway across the country. She communicated and encouraged me via three separate social media channels. All, without having ever met me!

In short, Friedman had won my gratitude and admiration even before her Saturday morning presentation on traditional publishing, niche presses and self-publishing. Then she proceeded to deliver what was easily the most organized, efficiently delivered and content-rich presentation that I attended all weekend. She observed that all three publishing options are relevant today (“they’re almost all on equal footings now”) and mapped out the pros and cons for each. She instructed us to evaluate how we connect with readers in order to select the publishing channel most compatible with our own strengths. Although the self-publishing route demands the greatest entrepreneurial spirit, Friedman emphasized that all three require writers to actively market and promote their work. Nobody is exempt.

Friedman illuminated the dark nooks and crannies of today’s publishing world while empowering a capacity audience of aspiring writers to chart their own course. She acknowledged that it helps to have a “partner” or mentor in the publishing community, and I realized why she’d already had such a profound impact on me. Her blog and webinar are the closest I’ve come to having a writing mentor since college, half a lifetime ago!

I’ve written since high school; I’ve taught writing; I’ve edited and published online and offline journals; and I’ve even mentored others. But I’ve never sought out an experienced, confident coach to help me become a published author. Why not?

I suppose, like many writers, I’ve identified the writing practice with solitude, with head down focus and perseverance, with forging my own course. I suppose, like many writers, I’ve been stubborn and overconfident that I can (must?) navigate this adventure independently.

But Jane Friedman and Dan Blank and Richard Nash and Patricia V. Davisand Al Katkowsky and a half dozen literary agents and several dozen writers grabbed me, jerked my blinders off and showed me that I’m not alone on this journey. We’re a community full of wise mentors and inspiring mavericks. Writers who opt out of this community are sacrificing the very guides, resources, and opportunities which can accelerate their progress as writers. And they are overlooking the friendship and encouragement of the most compatible colleagues out there!

And so, I return to the Adirondacks, to my desk, to my manuscript. But unlike my writing practice before the Writer’s Digest Conference, I have discovered a new passion, focus, strategy and community. I am now ready to seek out the mentors and mavericks who will shape my adventure. I’m ready to embrace my fellow adventurers, starting with a warm “Thank you!” to everyone I met at the Writer’s Digest Conference and to those of you who followed along via #wdc11. And I am ready and eager to bear hug all of you who follow, support, critique, encourage and teach me via TwitterFacebook, the virtualDavis blog and my Flinflanerie newsletter. Thank you!

On Publishing, Adventure and Julio Cortazar

Argentine writer Julio Cortázar‘s short story La autopista del sur (The Southern Highway) opens on a Sunday afternoon north of Fontainebleau, France amidst a traffic jam of anxious, overheating weekenders returning to Paris. Trying to return to Paris.

They check their watches, move a few inches each time they get the chance, tell themselves contradictory stories about what has caused the jam, and wait expectantly for an authority to clear things up.

But no authority takes charge. Nothing clears up. Paris becomes an abstraction, the metaphorical Ithaca that catalyzes Odysseus’s adventures and storytelling.

Are you with me so far? Good.

Top up your coffee; add a dollop of bourbon. You’re going to need both. And if my Cortázar Homer two-step’s already gotten you out of your comfort zone, you just might want to stop here. Seriously. As in, stop listening/reading. Go load the laundry. Turn on the tube. Tweet a friend. Talk about the weather. Because the Cortázar Homer two-step is… It’s just the warm up. The big jig – the toe tapping, deep dipping, smooth sliding number I’m about to dance (and sing) – it’s bodacious. And it’s liable to blur the steps you’re already dancing. More than a little.

Still with me? Laundry be damned!

There’s a new tune in town. And a new dance.

Remember the eBook Summit 2010? Presenters were rhyming and jiving as if their careers depended on it (I suppose they do), innovating right there in front of our eyes. Remember the vook boogy and the broadcastr shuffle? Of course, some presenters were wearing fancy new clothes but humming the old tunes and dancing the old steps. It was a mixed bag.

Publishing industry representative weren’t in sync; presenters were shimmying to at least two totally different rhythms, one oh-so-retro and the other post-post-modern.

Fast forward to the 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference. This conference was different. There was much greater alignment of wills and visions. Embracing digital books, digital distribution and digital platforms; embracing print on demand; embracing indie publishing; even embracing increasingly transmedia-oriented publishing alternatives.

I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday riffing with many of the five hundred writers in attendance about manuscripts, queries, pitches, proposals, platforms, print books, digital books, etc. And not just writers. The event was thick with editors, publishers, agents, platform builders, app creators,… Three days of presentations by individuals at the bleeding edge of 21st century publishing, professionals reinventing storytelling in the digital age.

On Saturday afternoon, from 3:15 to 5:15, I pitched my memoir Rosslyn Redux to literary agents, many encouraging, interested and full of advice. Most asked for a proposal. Incredible! Actually, the whole experience was incredible, from the controlled chaos of the event itself to the real-time, time-lapse “pitch tuning” made possible by pitching, pitching, pitching. Picture 500+ writers navigating a too tight, too hot, too dimly lit conference room at the Sheraton. Picture 58 literary agents sitting around the perimeter of the room, surnames affixed to the wall behind them. And lines, serpentine lines of writers, waiting for a chance to sit, smile, inhale, greet, pitch, exhale, smile, listen, inhale, engage, nod, exhale, smile, thank, stand and then head off to the next line. And bells, so many bells, every three minutes another bell ringing announcing the change. Next writer. Next pitch. Three minutes. Ninety seconds to pitch, ninety seconds to listen, talk, interact, connect. Or not.

We all sang and danced. Then shuffled to the next partner. And sang and danced again. But better. Each time better. Cleaner, crisper, freer. Less book pitch, more dialogue, more collaboration. I’m talking about getting in sync. Flowing. Finding our groove. In fact, at the risk of bludgeoning this song and dance metaphor into oblivion, the whole weekend was about finding our groove. A new groove, but our own groove. Does this make sense?

Like Cortazar’s protagonist, we writers started the #wdc11 adventure hyper-focused on our destination: deliver the perfect pitch to the perfect agent. I’m generalizing. I’m referring to the majority of the attendees. Several writers didn’t intend to pitch. But most did. Most, like me, have been working long and hard on a manuscript. Most, like me, were pitching for the first time. We were learning how to pitch – hopefully how to pitch well – by pitching. And perhaps, if the predictables and the unpredictables were aligned, we’d accelerate our quests toward published authordom.

It wasn’t just during the Pitch Slam that my memory flitted from the low-ceiling, fuzzy lighting and recycled air to Cortazar’s short story. Again and again I thought about the traffic jam south of Paris. An otherwise random assortment of motorists except for a common ambition: get to Paris. But the delay stretches to hours then days with nominal progress and no authority steps in to offer answers, guidance or assistance. Even the change of seasons doesn’t significantly advance the motorists’ progress. Gradually the motorists’ ambition shifts from reaching their destination to surviving the traffic jam. News and rumors circulate. Then are debunked. Then more rumors. Strategies, amities and tensions ebb and flow. Micro communities of motorists coalesce around the rudiments of survival and sickness and birth and death. Life happens. Until, one day, traffic begins to move. Paris comes into view as columns of cars begin to advance – slowly at first, then more and more quickly – toward their destination. The micro community begins to dissolve as the motorists hurtle toward Paris. I’ll leave the final ironic twist to you. Read the story. In Spanish, if you can.

So why all this song and dance?

Here’s the skinny. As writers we’re all traveling in a similar direction. Or trying to. Sometimes we’re all targeting the same destination. We focus – or think we do – like laser beams. We don blinders to eliminate distractions. We stare straight ahead at the destination, press the pedal to the metal, and race headlong toward the goal.  Then something shifts, slows us down long enough to question, to regroup, to consider

  • whether we’re headed toward the right destination
  • whether we’re pursuing the destination in the best manner
  • whether the destination has changed since we picked it
  • whether we have changed since picking our destination
  • whether we’re missing the scenery and the people along the way

If my destination is the perfect pitch, a debut memoir, a rhyzomic platform, a storytelling career for a loyal audience, or all the above, the Writer’s Digest Conference did a bang-up job of slowing me down. In short, the Writer’s Digest Conference provided the proverbial traffic jam. So many writers ostensibly headed in the same direction, hyper-focused but blinded, caravanning along together but mostly disconnected. Until Friday afternoon. Traffic was forced to slow down for three days. We writers are an independent, solitary and stubborn lot, so it wasn’t surprising that we chomped at the bit, test driving our pitches, asking and re-asking for the secret sauce. For a while. Until we got to know the writers sitting next to us. Until Chuck Sambuchino reminded us that pitching is a conversation, that agents were here at their own expense to find promising talent. Until Jane Friedman dilated the menu of writer’s destinations. Until Dan Blank and Guy Gonzalez dilated the perception of a writer’s platform. Until Richard Nash nimbly bridged the solitary-to-social divide and reshuffled the writer/publisher relationship. Until a parade of literary agents shook my hand and welcomed me to the conversation.

The Writer’s Digest Conference was enjoyable. Singing and dancing usually are.

But the Writer’s Digest Conference was more. It was a traffic jam that introduced me to dozens of inspiring, visionary fellow journeyers on this adventure of writing and publishing. It exposed me to the community that can help me and taught me how to ask for help. It created a map and gave me the tools I’ll need to reach my destination.

Another Rosslyn Boathouse Postcard

I missed an opportunity to bid on another great old photo postcard of Rosslyn’s dockhouse/boathouse in an eBay auction this weekend! The photograph shows the Essex-Charlotte ferry early in the 20th century and beyond the ferry boat the Rosslyn boathouse is distinctly visible and looking very much like it does today.

Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, Part #3

The Pitch Slam looms ever nearer!

After a parade of supercharged presentations this morning, the Writer’s Digest Conference 2011 has swung into full swing. The conference rooms are packed! Here’s what’s on deck for this afternoon:

  • How to Be an Author in a World Where Everyone Is a Writer: Editor and publisher Richard Nash on the opportunities in post-traditional publishing.
  • 10 Essential Things You Must Know to Craft an Effective Query: The infamous Query Shark, Janet Reid, teaches you how to write a kick-ass query.
  • Effective Strategies for Producing Yourself Online & Growing Readership: Presented by David Carnoy, April Hamilton, and Jane Friedman as moderator.
  • The Art of the Page Turner: Hallie Ephron
  • Pitch Slam (58 Literary Agents)
  • Three Hurdles to Publishing Success No One Tells You About: Phil Sexton, the publisher of Writer’s Digest—and a man with experience across sales, marketing, editorial, AND authorship—draws back the curtain on the inner workings of the publishing industry.

Are you ready for the Pitch Slam?

What follows is a beta mashup from Saturday afternoon’s sessions. I’m curating digital artifacts from Twitter, blogs, etc. to tell the digital story of Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, but I’m sure to miss great content. Please tweet me (@virtualDavis) or contact me directly with links to great tweets, blog posts, videos, etc. so that I can add them. Thanks!

Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, Part #2

The Writer’s Digest Conference 2011 has already exceeded my expectations by a factor of three. At least! If you’re just joining me, check out yesterday’s coverage of day one which included these presentations:

  • The Future of Publishing: Don’t Give Up On Books: Richard Curtis is a sage voice amidst the noise, and a longtime agent.
  • Pitch Perfect: Chuck Sambuchino on pitching a manuscript to agents
  • Branding Yourself: Dan Blank gives us this rare and valuable opportunity for writers to get some of the best wisdom out there on marketing and community building.

On this crisp Saturday morning a strengthening Pitch Slam undercurrent — fueled by Chuck Sambuchino’s presentation yesterday and literary agent Janet Reid’s selachimorphic pitching pointers — is whipping up the waters. But before writers and agents start speed dating this afternoon, the morning is packed with compelling presentations:

As the pre-conference buzz transforms into real-time conference buzz, more and more participants are commenting and covering the event via social media. What follows is a beta mashup from Saturday morning’s sessions. I’m curating digital artifacts from Twitter, blogs, etc. to tell the digital story of Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, but I’m sure to miss great content. Please tweet me (@virtualDavis) or contact me directly with links to great tweets, blog posts, videos, etc. so that I can add them. Thanks!

Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, Part #4

Yesterday afternoon at Writer’s Digest Conference 2011 was a game-changer for most participants, indeed for everyone that I’ve spoken to so far. Top notch presenters packing our heads and To Do lists with critical advice. And then the much anticipated opportunity to pitch our manuscripts to multiple literary agents while the coaching is still fresh. Exhilarating, empowering, humbling, encouraging, exhausting…

It was an intense two hours. Personally, the Pitch Slam offered some of the most important feedback and inspiration in my writing experience. Smart, attentive agents telling me what I can do, must do, will do. A road map. And opportunities. Whether or not agents expressed interest in your manuscript, their feedback was priceless. An opportunity to learn how to proceed.

I had fascinating conversations with other writers last night about what they gained from the experience. Even those who were disappointed not to have received as much interest as they’d hoped were grateful for the guidance and feedback they received. Many others were practically giddy with fresh encouragement and hope kindled by the interest of literary agents.

The positive vibe continued this morning, the final day of Writer’s Digest Conference 2011. Here are the offerings:

  • How to Use Social Media to Get Noticed and Sell Your Work: Dan Blank, Brent Sampson, Kate Rados, Moriah Jovan, and Guy Gonzalez as moderator on a panel on using social media effectively to build your platform
  • Writers and Mobile Apps: The Big Opportunity: Question of the Day creator Al Katkowsky on the mobile app opportunity for writers.
  • Showing & Telling: The old adage, “Show, don’t tell” is wrong. Find out why from an experienced novelist, Laurie Alberts.
  • The Kindle Publishing Workshop: This is a detailed and technical walk-through of how to get your work on the Kindle (without a publisher) presented by April Hamilton.
  • Book or Bestseller: Which Will You Choose?: Patricia V. Davis on working with agent, publishers and booksellers to build your writing career.
  • The Writer’s Compass: Using Story Maps to Build Better Fiction: Nancy Ellen Dodd on story mapping.
  • Revision: Learn How to Love It: Only James Scott Bell could turn a thing that most writers hate into something that you can attack with confidence—and yes, even a bit of love.
  • Successfully Promoting Your Book: Kevin Smokler, Brent Sampson, Kate Rados as moderator present this panel full of personality, wit, and damn good advice.
  • Success Strategies and Systems for Writing & Selling More: The lovely and inspiring (and productive!) Sage Cohen offers 10 ways to exponentially increase the results and rewards of your writing life.
  • Creating a Backstory: How and Why It Can Make or Break Your Novel: Hallie Ephron tells us how to use backstory to make a reader care about a character (rather than slow down the story).
  • Blogging as a Platform and Publicity Machine: Dan Blank on blogging to build your platform.
  • The More Things Change… (Benjamin LeRoy)

What follows is a beta mashup from Sunday morning’s sessions. I’m curating digital artifacts from Twitter, blogs, etc. to tell the digital story of Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, but I’m sure to miss great content. Please tweet me (@virtualDavis) or contact me directly with links to great tweets, blog posts, videos, etc. so that I can add them. Thanks!

Rosslyn Boathouse Postcard


Rosslyn Boathouse PostcardDo you recognize the circled dockhouse/boathouse in the blown-up image I grabbed from a current eBay auction? It’s a bit difficult to discern from the fuzzy photo, but that’s Rosslyn’s dockhouse fifty or sixty years ago. Historic photos and postcards of this unique building protruding out into Essex, New York’s North Bay are not uncommon on eBay and elsewhere. Soon enough I’ll be sharing some of those images over at the Rosslyn Redux website.

Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, Part #1

The Writer’s Digest Conference 2011 (NYC 1/21-23) promised exactly the sort of publishing nuts and bolts I’ve been looking for:

  • Getting Published in the Digital Age: How to get published in the digital age!
  • The Future of Publishing: What is the future of publishing?
  • Platforms and Social Media: Why do writers need a platform and how do they build that strong platform?
  • Perfecting Your Pitch: Learn how to perfect your pitch at the Writer’s Digest pitch slam!
  • Honing Your Craft: Learn how to write a page turner in any genre!

It even offered a speed-dating-esque Pitch Slam for writers to practice manuscript pitching techniques taught in the presentation sessions. Throw in the opportunity to meet other writers and the single best opportunity to crowdsource Rosslyn Redux among a targeted book audience, and I’ve been anticipating the Writer’s Digest Conference the way teenagers anticipate summer vacation.

And I wasn’t alone! The pre-conference buzz grew frenzied in the days leading up to Friday’s opening session. What follows is a beta mashup from Friday’s sessions. I’ve aggregated and curated digital artifacts from Twitter, blogs, etc. to tell the digital story of Writer’s Digest Conference 2011. I hope you enjoy the journey. And I genuinely hope you’ll let me know what I’ve missed so that I can include and preserve it for writers who were unable to attend the conference. Please tweet me (@virtualDavis) or contact me directly if you come across great tweets, blog posts, videos, etc. that I should add. Thanks!

All the #wdc11 graffiti that’s fit to curate! I’m gathering and sorting the most compelling digital artifacts from the 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference taking place in New York City on January 21-23. The data wave is swelling, so I’m sure to miss plenty. Don’t hesitate to bring more goodies to my attention.

All the #wdc11 graffiti that’s fit to curate! I’m gathering and sorting the most compelling digital artifacts from the 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference taking place in New York City on January 21-23. The data wave is swelling, so I’m sure to miss plenty. Don’t hesitate to bring more goodies to my attention.

%d bloggers like this: