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I’m a little late commenting on my January New York trip. At the time, I posted pics to Facebook, and just enjoyed the event without other comment.

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It was a great trip. New York has figured in many stages of my life, so visiting there stirs up memories from all over my past: It was “the city” nearest my childhood and teenage home, and so the site of family visits and later fun with friends; though my college years were in Pittsburgh, many of my college friends ended up in New York to act (and I got to see some of them this trip); for grad school, I lived back at home again, interned at the Met, and did part of my thesis at the Brooklyn Museum. I got my first writing job in New York twenty years ago thanks to a party at the Plaza Hotel (and I got to meet up with that editor this trip, too–thanks, Mark Danna!). It’s the city where my sister lives, where my agent lives, and where I published my first book. New York is one of the places I feel at home.

The event with author Jenny Milchman and agents Donald Maass and Janet Reid went great. That Barnes and Noble has a lovely dedicated event space, and even a “green room” for speakers to wait in. Jenny and I snapped pics of each other like giggly teenagers.

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It was wonderful to see old friends there, and it was wonderful to see so many strangers (always a treat when a lot of strangers come to a book event!). My agent brought a good camera and took this nice shot of the talk itself:

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Another agent from my agency wrote a little about the event, pretty accurately in my opinion. Here is a relevant quote:

I recently attended a panel given by two agents and two authors—one of the agents, full disclosure, was my boss, and one of the authors is one of our clients. Over the course of the hour they each spoke about writing and the publishing process—from the point of view of the author and the agent—and about what makes a good book. Don Maass, my boss, spoke about what he thinks makes a book “work” where other books with similar themes might not. Janet Reid, uber-agent, talked about books keeping her from going into the office because she has to find out what happened. Jenny Milchman, whose debut novel Cover of Snow just came out, talked about writing eight books before this one found a home with a Big Six publisher. Emily Winslow, whose second novel Start of Everything was just published, talked about finding freedom as a writer, releasing herself from fear through her early days writing poetry. At the end of all this discussion I was energized to get back to work, but it was time for questions from the audience—and the very first question was on how important social media is to an agent or publisher.

Talk about putting the cart before the horse! And the questions that followed—do I need to pay someone to write a proposal for a nonfiction project? What about autobiography?—were equally off the mark. It is not constructive for an author to think about their twitter feed more than their writing. It is not constructive for an aspiring writer to think about how they’re going to get published before they’ve even finished the book. I venture to guess that an author who is worrying aloud about their social media presence has a deeper fear, that there is something missing from their work that is keeping it from finding a home. I advise them to work on that first. Aspiring writers should aspire to write, and the business of writing is a bit of a long game. But if an aspiring writer with talent then works hard, works long, and is constructive about their craft, then I think they’ll have pretty good luck.

After, I went out for shakes with friends. New York is just getting more full of memories.

It’s rare that I travel without children. These are some of the differences that stand out:

1) Packing for just oneself feels impossibly simple and light. I keep thinking, “It can’t be this easy, can it??”

2) Since the family is staying home, no need for the pre-trip stress of readying the house to be unoccupied.

3) Airport security with only one pair of shoes to come off and one bag to send through is laughably simple. Heck, I remember the days of having to wake up a sleeping baby so I could fold up his stroller and heave it up onto the conveyor belt, one-handed, while holding the now vocal and annoyed baby with the other. Downside: because I will be a lone adult instead of a mom, I will probably be sent through the creepy backscatter machine instead of getting to follow my boys through the regular metal detector.

4) Even with my sweetheart’s frequent flying, we never have enough air miles to upgrade all of us. With me flying alone, however, and it being low season, I have finagled an upgrade. I will drink champagne! I will swivel my seat to face my laptop on a desk beside me, or face the TV shows diagonal to me, or the fancy food in front of me, or even to LIE FLAT. I consider this upcoming flight to be a vacation entirely on its own.

I grew up close enough to New York that my best friend and I occasionally ditched school to catch one of the frequent commuter trains into the city instead. New York is the city of my childhood, and I’m delighted to be “coming home” for a few days.

From “Envoy” by Billy Collins, a message to his just-published book:

"stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can."