By Karina Fabian
There are plenty of good reasons for writers to attend conferences – education, networking. But my favorite reason is the crazy synergy that only happens when writers get together and that only writers may fully understand.
Case in point: Cows with laser beams.
It all started when my roommate at the Catholic Writers’ Conference Live mentioned cutting out a scene in a novel she was editing because “it was just looking at cows.” We agreed that if there had to be cows in a story, they had better be doing something interesting. I fell asleep thinking about cows, and woke up with a vision: Cows with frickin’ laser beams on their heads.
Of course (and anyone who knows my writing would also agree, “of course”), I spent the day thinking about what kind of story would involve cows with laser beams on their heads. Naturally, at dinner with seven other writers, I brought it up. Now, these are writers of Catholic devotionals, epic fantasy, and mystery. And we are in a public restaurant. And sober. Yet by the time the night was over, we had crafted the story of the evil rancher, Sir Lion, and his sidekick Chuck Roast, who were breeding cattle in order to destroy the world by increasing greenhouse gasses to cause runaway global warming. The cows would have laser beams in order to patrol their territory – and do topiary. (Sadly a few cows were too stupid to do more than create hay bale-shaped topiary and were sent to trim the hedgerows instead.)
As a matter of fact, I am going to write this. As a Gapman episode in the DragonEye world. Thanks for asking.
But it gets better. I had a lecture the next morning, so how could I resist? I added laser cows, and in my research found that it’s been done! Since the lecture was idea generation, it was the perfect illustration that there are no new ideas, just new takes on the same ideas. In fact, laser beam cows worked their way into other lectures and casual conversation.
The cliché of writing is that it’s a solitary activity, and it is true that writers need concentrated alone time to get their words on paper, but that’s only a part of the writing process. We also thrive on interaction and support, whether it’s for a serious topic that needs fleshing out, a critique that helps us see what to cut from a scene to get the right focus of emotion, or the crazy brainstorming that results in laser beam cows.