by Gabriella Herkert
I learned more from the other writers at the Maui Writers’ Conference than I did from the presenters. True, I paid my conference fee to see the likes of John Saul and Terry Brooks but I learned the most from Janet Spurr.
She was behind me in the registration line. It was either serendipity or just incredible dumb luck. It started with the introduction. She pitched her nonfiction at-the-beach book to everyone with a firm handshake and a bright smile. I might not be a bigwig agent but I was (and am) a would-be reader and champion of her work. I got the A-list treatment. Her pitch was polished and personal ‘ no monotones or mumbles for her ‘ and it always ended with a call to action.
Would I like to be added to her mailing list? Would I consider writing a review? Would I think about her book the next time I pulled out the sunblock number forty-five? Yes, yes and yes.
She had dozens of ideas. Every one of them had been carefully thought out and tailored to her work. Instead of a business card, she handed out postcards. They had all the requisite contact information but they also had two housewives from the fifties with bouffant hairdos, umbrella drinks and cats-eye sunglasses on lounge chairs. I might not remember every name but there’s no chance I’d forget this picture. Since she uses the postcards as her follow-up thank you cards as well, I’m also not likely to forget her work. I’ve used postcards ever since.
It was her fourth conference but she still met with the same people. So what if they told her ‘no’ last year? This year she had even more to offer. Not just this year but tomorrow and an hour from now and ten minutes after that. She never gives up. A ‘no’ is one step from a ‘not now’ which is first cousin to ‘I’ll think about it’ which is a stone’s throw to ‘absolutely.’ She never lets me give up either.
Janet is a Professional Writer. She is a Professional because she prepares and she delivers. She is a Writer because she is passionate and committed to her work. She is remarkable because she generously offers all that she knows to other writers, including me, who hope one day to be thought of the same way. I’ll probably have dozens of mentors over my writing career but I hope to always remember ‘ and more importantly to always share ‘ the lessons of La Spurr.