I’m Expected to Brag. I WRITE FLASH (or a Writer’s Conference Confessional).

Back in December 2011, I detailed my three goals for the year. And not to sound like a Smug Asshole but it’s only March and I’ve already nailed one of ’em.

The Glow of Smugness

Last weekend I attended a Writer’s Conference, funnily named Desert Nights, Rising Stars, at Arizona State University. I won’t bore you with lengthy exposition, after all I am not John Steinbeck, but will instead break it down fast and easy.

This sign is...so...brown.

It felt so weird to be on a college campus again. And while I’ve gone to high school here and live here now I’ve never been on the ASU campus. I watched the leggy girls in shorts traipse by and watched emo boys in flip-flops smoke in the quad and came to one realization: Man, did I feel old.

I picked up my super sweet name badge, complete with official lanyard and sat at a table. Soon I was joined by a group of fellows who would be my writer compatriots over the next few days.

The first realization I had was, Whoa, I actually have to talk about myself. I’m expected to brag. I can do it; I know it’s necessary, I just feel awkward. Yet, I did. “I write FLASH,” I loudly proclaimed, before launching into a detailed description of what flash consists of.  Note: It does not consist of nudity.

On second thought...

We had our one and only dinner, where thankfully alcohol was supplied (we are writers after all) and ate our Southwest dinner (we are in Arizona after all) and I listened to the conversation at my table. It consisted of making fun of aliens and preaching politics, both which concerned me because a) I love aliens and b) I believe politics among strangers should only be discussed if the listener is in a vegetative state, which I was not. At this moment, I was about ready to stand, flip the table over and lose my shit.


Skipping ahead – the classes were awesome. From 9am until 5pm I had my choice of taking prose or poetry classes on the hour, every hour. I took mostly fiction classes, listening to Robert Boswell offer extremely helpful tips on characterization or the awesome Pam Houston talk about genre-bending. Finally, I decided to take two poetry classes near the end of the conference and I was blown away.

Even though I do dabble in poetry, I don’t consider myself a poet. But Denise Duhamel’s and Valerie Bandura’s classes were astonishing. Amazing speakers and women, I consider them to be some of the most invaluable classes I took that weekend. If you haven’t heard of Denise puh-lease look her up. She is a hilarious poet. I am currently reading a book of hers called Kinky – that she autographed for me – and (waiiiiiiiit for iiiiiit) it’s all about Barbie. Um, yes, please.

The other great thing about this conference was the networking. Actually meeting writers from Arizona. While I’ve met some amazing contacts and friends on the internet they are, sadly, in other states.  The spread of people from different places and age groups was so very cool. It was also a bit overwhelming, as I looked over the crowd of eager faces, thinking in sort of a blind panic, ALL these people want to be writers? FML.

Be afraid.

But then I took hearty gulps of air and managed to calm myself.

The downside of the conference was the space. The rooms were decent size, yet were small when needing to accommodate 40 people who came to a lecture. Many people were left standing, causing classes to be delayed and staff to search for extra chairs. Also, there was a shortage of handouts (how can you not prep accordingly?), causing the staff to act dumbfounded on what to do next.

Here’s a thought. We’re at a college. Make copies, geniuses.

Harsh? Maybe. But when I’m paying 350 bucks to attend a conference like this I want a chair to sit it so I can hear the speaker. I don’t want to sit 20 feet away, nestled on a large boulder in the flower garden pretending that I’m at Walden Pond.

My other issue? I was coming down with a cold last week and it started in my throat. So basically, everyone I met didn’t get the funny, cool Jules. They got the squawking Ma’s-Roadhouse-sounding me.

Yeah. This lady. How's that for sexy?

I walked and talked in a fog, unable to express myself to full capacity. It would figure that the one time I have to interact with people, fate steps in and bends me over.

That said…I still wouldn’t trade it. I dug my invaluable time at the conference and in the writerly fashion spent way too much money on books and drank way too much coffee. It was such a great eye-opening experience to the world of writing and even my own self.

I mean, we all know how Emilio Estevez feels about writing conferences, but how about me? How about Jules?

This. This is how I feel. 

Clearly, I do not belong at the Normal School.

AWP Conference 2016 in Los Angeles…here I come.

No Comments
  • Reply

    Harley May

    March 2, 2012 at 3:30 am

    Yay! You deserve to brag. I’m glad you had a good experience and YOU TOTALLY SHOULD HAVE FLIPPED THE SHIT OUT OF THAT TABLE.

    Go you.

  • Reply

    Ali Trotta

    March 2, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    This was so awesome to read! Very fun, very vivid — and it sounds like a great experience. Also, that last picture is pure gold. My college had a building called (and I shit you not) Loser Hall. It’s was supposedly pronounced Low-zer, but COME ON. I laughed every time I walked by it.

    Anyway, great post!!

    • Reply


      March 2, 2012 at 8:28 pm

      Hi Ali – thanks for the follow! Haha, yes, I thought the Normal School was too good to pass up an unfreakish photo. I love the Loser Hall. Classic.

  • Reply

    Debbie Porter

    March 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    You have met your three goals for the year? Be as smug as you want to be…I haven’t even made any goals this year. I love that you did this. And I love your recap. And I love that you were inspired in spite of your cold and your foggy state of mind….btw…why the hell didn’t they have enough seats or handouts?

    But then again…it WAS a writer’s conference, so I suppose in a strange way, that makes perfect sense.

    • Reply


      March 2, 2012 at 8:34 pm

      Thanks for reading, Debbie! I guess as writers we’re expected to strive for what we want (seats) instead of actually getting it.

  • Reply

    Marsha Stewart

    March 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Julia, this post really made me laugh. Cheers for that.

  • Reply

    Michael Gillan Maxwell

    March 2, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    🙂 Really, really funny Jules, as always! Especially loved the comment about the conversation at dinner leaving you “ready to stand, flip the table over and lose my shit.” Totally relate to that as I spent most of the last years of my big boy career as a grown up in precisely that state of mind during meetings … but I digress. It was the “feel-good” post of the week – I laughed, I cried, I started doing ab crunches after seeing that photo. See you on down the highway at Ma’s Roadhouse …

    • Reply


      March 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm

      Haha, thanks Michael. Glad you could relate about freaking out at meetings or anything remotely civilized. Don’t let the guy in the photo fool you. He doesn’t really write flash. 😉

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