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I was going to post about this yesterday, then realized it was April 1 and no one would believe me. Chances are most people will think this post is full of shit anyway, but whatever. About six weeks ago I received an invitation via Mary Sangiovanni from Scott M. Baker asking us, along with fellow writer Kelli Owen, to come down to the CIA headquarters in Langley to have a talk with their writing group. Yes, the CIA has a writing group, appropriately named Invisible Ink. Basically they’re just like any other writers who hold day jobs and struggle at night to find the time to work on their writing career. Well, just like other writers except for the part where they have a far more impressive and powerful employer than the rest of us. So, you know, don’t fuck with them.

Anyway! Last Tuesday, we got up at holy-fuck-o’clock and drove from York, PA (where Brian Keene graciously hosted us for the night) and drove down to Langley, where after some hilarious hijinks at the WRONG front gate involving security guards with gigantic rifles, we managed to find the right entrance to the CIA compound and check in. Scott was our very gracious (and patient) escort for the day – visitors can’t just wander at will – and gave us tours of the front entrance, the three on-site museums, the gift shop (I now am the proud owner of a CIA mug, to ensure my morning coffee is the most secretive beverage of all), and a cafeteria that pretty much drove home the point that the cafeteria at my place of employ, Wolfram & Hart, is complete shit. Yes, I’m jealous and not ashamed to admit it. We also saw a very large chunk of the Berlin Wall, and the Kryptos Sculpture, which is quite impressive up close. I was this close to solving the fourth panel, but damned if there wasn’t enough time. Maybe on my next visit…

The meeting itself? After brief intros from Scott, Mary, Kelli and I basically threw the floor open to questions, and it was as you’d expect – questions about technique, markets, marketing and publicity, workshops and cons, and talking about dealing with the same struggles all writers have with getting published. The only difference between this talk and the conversations I have with other writers was that I will never know the names of the people I spoke with, and if we ever interact online (or already are), I won’t ever know that those were the people I spoke with in that conference room. My only regret is that there wasn’t enough time to talk about all the things I wanted to talk about (we actually went half an hour over our allotted time), but that happens with pretty much every panel and talk. All in all, I think we did a pretty good job of answering questions. I mean, they let us leave the compound at the end of the day, so there you go. Success!

If this report seems a bit sparse on specific details, it’s because I’m deliberately leaving out a lot of what we saw, just to err on the side of caution. I’m really not interested in receiving one of those phone calls, if you know what I mean, and I’d like to go back for another talk with the group, so there you go. Mary Sangiovanni’s report is right here, if you’d like to read it, and Kelli’s post is here.

Ok, secret writers group at Quantico – time to step up and email me!

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Originally published at Livia Llewellyn.

Marine Autumn

I owe you marine autumn
With dankness at its roots
and fog like a grape
and the graceful sun of the country;
and the silent space
in which sorrows lose themselves
and only the bright crown
of joy comes to the surface.

--Pablo Neruda.


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