This year, PNWA managed to snag bestselling crime novelist Lisa Gardner as one of the dinner keynote speakers, for this year's summer conference. Even better yet, they managed to convince her to hang around another day for the Lunch With Author session.
Between these gatherings, Ms. Gardner entertained attendees with stories of her less-than-smooth road to success. She started off as a romance novelist while juggling a waitress job--and flaming saganaki (cheese). Despite several fiery mishaps, Ms. Gardner managed to finish her first book, while avoiding visits to the burn treatment center and went on to become a managing consultant. Thirteen romance novels later and loathing everything about the corporate grind, from commuting to pantyhose--especially the pantyhose--she sought a change and wrote her first suspense novel.
Her first thriller, The Perfect Husband, was the success she needed to quit her corporate job and throw out her pantyhose. (I'm surprised she didn't ceremoniously douse her nylons with flaming saganaki).
Ms. Gardner is a funny and lively speaker, who engaged her audience with amusing anecdotes, like:
--Driving around Portland as a teenager with her best friend, interviewing prostitutes for her first novel.
--Dumping a carton of milk on her brother. The same brother, later having to convince a date that all the romance novels in his place were written by his sister.
--Catching her husband watching porn. But unlike most hapless husbands caught in such acts, the Luck O' the Irish was with him that day. The movie turned out to be a German production of one of her books, where the heroine always ends up naked while fleeing the knife-wielding psychopath.
However, it wasn't all fun and games and German soft porn. Ms. Gardner's keynote presentation focused on her top five reasons for being a writer. Or, as she wrote me, "The top five reasons it is absolutely wonderful, amazing, rewarding, inspiring, exhilarating, and just plain fabulous to be a writer."
And they are:
1. It is okay to be cranky.
2. Anyone can do it.
3. It's a business that when one writer succeeds, all writers succeed.
4. Creativity is never wrong.
5. And finally, one of the best reasons for being a writer is that you can come to conferences, such as this one, and finally meet people as neurotic as yourself.
(For us gamers and sci-fi fans, feel free to substitute "geeky" for "neurotic").
For more information on Lisa Gardner and her work, check out her website:
(This link can also be found under the Authors tab).
For aspiring authors, check out her Writer's Toolbox page. It is packed with her how-to articles and lecture notes.
She can also be found on-line among "the usual suspects" of Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.