My 7th PNWA Writers Conference

Okay, so, I wanted a cookie.

Every year around three o’clock at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s annual writers conference, cookies appear.  Those big, nice looking ones. And every year I’m busily engaged with something else. But not this year. This year, I decided, I was going to get one of those cookies.

I was volunteering near the power pitching area, where conference attendees were pitching novel and book proposal ideas to literary agents from New York and points beyond. That’s when I spotted the first cookie. A big, soft-looking chocolate chip cookie.

So I made my move, rushing toward the conference center where the daily presentations were taking place. The hallway before the open ballroom doors was crowded with conference attendees all sporting cookies the size of teacup saucers. I spotted the first dessert table, but it was completely picked over.  Only empty trays and crumbs.

I moved on to the second dessert area and it, too, was eviscerated. The rogues! This wasn’t going well.

The third and final dessert table loomed in the distance and I could see now, yes, cookies. Not many. Perhaps a half a tray remaining.  But with the crowd surrounding it, there wasn’t much time left.

As I closed in, Pam Binder, president of the PNWA, gently tugged my arm. “Brian, can I talk to you a minute?”

But I was on a mission now.  It was like that scene in Terminator where you can see everything from the terminator’s point of view. At the top of my head’s up display blinked “COOKIE, COOKIE, COOKIE,” and a little menu along the side was spooling, “Oat Meal Raisin, White Chocolate Macadamia, Sugar,” finally settling on “Chocolate Chip.”

I became trapped behind a woman in her nineties thinking out loud. “Now, which kind of cookie would I like?” She paused thoughtfully, surveying the emptying plate as around her other conference attendees picked off the cookies one by one. Finally, I managed to snake my arm in the fray and extract a cookie.  It was an overcooked, dry peanut butter cookie, but a cookie nonetheless.

“I’m sorry, Pam,” I said, wondering back over to her, “I was just…” I was going to explain why I hadn’t stopped to talk to her but by now she had figured out why and was laughing at me. She and the woman next to her.

“That’s okay, Brian. I just wanted to introduce you to Debbie Macomber.” Ms. Macomber, the laughing woman standing next to Pam, was of course the Debbie Macomber, the stratospherically best-selling novelist and, as it happened, our guest keynote speaker for that night’s dinner.

Busted for the cookie fiend that I had become.

This was just one of several “peak moment” events that took place at this year’s PNWA writers conference. This year’s highlights included meeting my agent for the first time face to face; serving on a panel discussion with her, an editor from Penguin, and another agent and author; and introducing Donald Maass at Thursday’s keynote evening dessert party.

It makes me think of my first PNWA writers conference six years ago and how utterly intimidated I had been. The big deal then was a pitch I had honed for weeks to be delivered to Karen Elizabeth Carr, a NEW YORK AGENT who I had queried three times over the years. But now I would be meeting her IN PERSON. Everyone I knew (and some I didn’t) had heard me practice my pitch over the preceding weeks and by the time I recited it in front of  her at that ten minute private meeting, I was a quivering mess.

Fast forward six years. I’m sitting on the PNWA board, webmaster for and contributor to Author Magazine, and honored to count dozens of literary agents as friends. But if someone told me at that first writers conference that in six years I’d be introducing Donald Maass — high-powered New York literary agent and best-selling author — in front of a crowd of five hundred people, I would have had a fart attack on the spot.

A lot can happen in six years.

What will the next six bring?


Author Photo 2 Square - Copy copy

Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.




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