Dave Does the Summit

David Wright Sterling & StoneIt’s weird working with people you know, but don’t really know in person.

As of summer 2014, I’d met with Sean only twice in seven years. I’d yet to meet his family, even though I’ve talked with them enough that they now feel like an extension of my own family. I’d also yet to meet Johnny.

The Kickstarter for Fiction Unboxed and The Dream Engine book changed all of that.

As part of the Fiction Unboxed project, a handful of writers paid a premium to meet with us in person for a Story World Summit for The Dream Engine world. The premise, in case you’re unfamiliar, is that these writers would write in the world of The Dream Engine, and we’d help them come up with and map out stories in that world for a giant brainstorming session.

Sounds great, right?

Just one problem — the Summit was in Austin, Texas (where Sean lives), meaning I’d need to travel.

I have long had a fear of flying which is only exacerbated by being six foot four and 325 pounds, and barely fitting in most seats. Did I mention that I’m also claustrophobic as hell? Getting the picture?

Since flying was out of the question, I decided to drive.

If you’re not familiar with the Florida panhandle and the gulf coast in the summer, let’s just say it rains — a lot.

The trip was supposed to take around 15 hours.

Supposed to.

While the first day had gone OK, the second was a white-knuckle horror ride in blinding white rain with insane drivers. And it only got worse when I crossed the Texas state line.

Holy shit, traffic sucks in Texas on the way to Austin.

After living in South Florida, where gunfights in traffic were commonplace events, I thought I knew bad traffic.

But Texas did its best to supplant Florida as having The Worst Roads In The Country. Between the confusing highways and the bizarre seemingly random lane closures, I felt like I was driving in an M.C. Escher piece. I was on the road for some fourteen hours on the second day, when it should’ve been ten at most.

There was one point during the end of the drive where it was late at night and the road was so dark, and the rain so blinding, that I was actually scared I was going to crash.

Did I happen to mention my fear of driving?

Especially at night?

In the rain?

There was a moment where my rental truck hit a patch of water and the truck hydroplaned, heading off the road, and I was pretty certain that that would be the end of the trip right there.

Somehow, I (or the truck) managed to stay on the road, but fuck if I wasn’t absolutely terrified.

That heightened state of terror lasted roughly the entire last two hours of the ride.

By the time I arrived at the hotel where the Summit was being held, I had decided that I hated Sean, Johnny, The Summit, the State of Texas, driving in general, and all of humanity on principle.

Which is a great way to feel when I’m about to meet the Summit attendees who paid a lot of money to spend the weekend with us.

“Hey, it’s Dave, I could not be more miserable than this very moment. Thank you for making me come here, you bastards. I hate you all.”

But something happened in the bar as we all sat getting to know one another.

The hellish ride behind me, I relaxed, and started to enjoy myself and my company.

The next morning we all gathered in a very nice meeting room, and I felt like a completely different person.

I was tired, yes, but there’s something about meeting with other writers — in person — that creates this energy, this high unlike anything else there is, which I thrive on.

I was happy. Animated. Involved in helping to create something.

This is where I thrive.

This is where I feel most like an artist. No, not an artist — a fucking Artist with a capital A!

As a writer, I spend a LOT of time holed away in isolation, dragging stories from my mind one painful line at a time until I have something I don’t hate.

But the brainstorming, the process of creation is nothing short of magical.

And I loved being in that environment for two days with authors who get what it takes to be a writer. Who know that it’s hard work, but who are devoted to their craft. Also, I enjoyed hanging out with them as people. It’s not often that I enjoy hanging out with people, but here I was, having a great time with Sean, Johnny, Amy, Monica, Kalvin, Garrett, and Matt.

Also, I got to meet Sean’s family, including his lovely wife who has always been so supportive of us. She truly is the rock that all of this — all that we do — is founded on. She’s had to sacrifice a lot in order for Sean to push our business where it needed to go, and it was great to finally meet her and spend time getting to know her face-to-face. His son, Ethan, reminded me a lot of my own son, and even of myself when I was his age — kind, curious, and telling jokes.

The highlight of our first night was dinner where his daughter, Haley, and I got to hang out. She is like Sean in a lot of ways — talkative, creative, and insanely happy and positive. Her, sitting next to me, the grouchy, pessimistic bastard, lent to a hilarious conversation with our whole half of the table imagining a podcast which features Haley and I playing off one another.

Great stuff.

In a weekend of highlights, there was also an important shift which took place.

I got to really know Johnny (and his awesome family, too). And while I had long trusted him and knew him to be a hard worker and great writer, there’s something about meeting someone in person.

You can understand them and get them in a way you can only do in person.

And Sean, Johnny, and I hit it off together — as a collective — in a way that made us feel like brothers united in a mission.

I felt lucky to meet someone like Sean in 2008, someone I could work and gel with so perfectly. But to have two partners I feel so connected to, well, that’s just being greedy to expect.

And yet, here it was.

Until now, there was Sean and I, and then there was Sean and Johnny. We all existed as separate parts of a larger machine, but not truly together.

This meeting forged a new vision for our company where it wasn’t just Collective Inkwell on one side and Realm & Sands on another, and all the other imprints somewhere in between.

No, this was us, as one, as Sterling & Stone, unified together to bring our unique visions to life.

And that would never have happened if not for Fiction Unboxed and those Summiteers who had faith enough in us to want to spend a weekend sharing our vision with theirs.

To sign up for the Sterling & Stone Colonist Summit in April, visit the Colonist Summit page here. Please note that as of the writing of this post, there are THREE SLOTS REMAINING.

About David Wright

Dave is the co-founder of Collective Inkwell, in which he and Sean Platt re-invented serial fiction. Hailing from the quaint town of [REDACTED], Dave's renown for putting children in jeopardy (in his fiction, anyway) has made him world famous.


  1. *sigh*


  2. Monica Leonelle says:

    Aww… this is the sweetest bromance story ever!

    And guys, seriously, Dave was a completely different person in Austin. He could not help but be happy. I really hope he gets the chance to move there someday.

    … Though that may be catastrophic for Better Off Undead.

  3. Awwww! Loved this. And have been waiting to hear you tell your side of the story since the Summit ended.

    I’m sure BOU would survive if you moved to Texas. With all those restaurants in Austin, there must be a lot of potential anger in each one of them. And I’m sure there are finger-licking people in Austin too – lol.

    How awesome would it be if you had an officebuilding, Pixar/Google style? Perhaps you could just find a huuuuge place, where there’s room for all 3 of your families, and a creative space for the three of you to work in? The creative flow would be on a high note all the time.

  4. Tammi Labrecque says:

    If there was a place in the budget from which to take this money, I would do it and count it well-spent, but I’ve been out of work since October … and the only people I could potentially borrow from (my lovely and generous former in-laws) have been paying my rent for several months so that I can write; I couldn’t ask them for more. So I will be with you in spirit (creepy!), and my 11 year old daughter informs me that she is writing an Alterra book, summit or not!

    Rock on!

Speak Your Mind