"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I (HEART) WRITING CONFERENCES

Last night I:
  • Licked the last bite of Cheesecake Mousse Surprise from my Saturday night banquet spoon. 
  • Gave a standing ovation to the keynote speaker, Ellen Waterston, for a talk/read with a degree of creative talent I only dream of. 
  • Won a LAURA Short Story Award and had my photo taken with other winners. 
  • Ogled the WILLA trophy I hope to win when my first novel is published.

I’m engaging in the post-conference high-five. The last night of the conference is the time when anything seems possible. For just a moment a writer is allowed the luxury of forgetting that publication is a process, not an event. When getting a juicy, six-figure book contract feels like it’s only a submission away, thanks to the nice agent I sat across from at an interview table. I feel like I’ve just grabbed a golden ring, even if I’ve never ridden a carousel with such a ring, even if it’s a cheesy metaphor even if I had.

For three days I worked the room in high heels and a smile. (Clothed. Bare-naked is a gambit that would work in reverse--promise.) Had a surprising heart-to-heart with an agent while everyone else was in a workshop. Had three agents request submission chapters and synopses. Shared moments of connection with agents and publishers who were feeling warm and fuzzy, too, because they’re human, and they’re looking for the next breakout novel--and they hope as much as I do that it’s me.

This morning, as I pulled my suitcase out of the closet and unpacked my bureau, I felt vaguely sad. But last last night the bartender started making my signature drink before I ordered it, a sign that it’s time to leave.

Time, also, because I’m starting to weigh the costs of my trip for my family, three of whom had birthdays this weekend. Bad, bad person! I missed my daughter’s, son’s and husband’s B-Days in a single swipe. Tough Luck, I thought when I scheduled the trip. Now remorse has set in. Worse, the phone call that my mother went into the hospital while I was gone. Nothing serious. My sister and niece are with her.

Everything serves to remind me that my advancement comes at a personal cost. No one's doubting the importance of the Women Writing the West Conference. I received an award. I put my name up for a national office next year. I met a publicist and maybe my next publisher.

So when I get home, happy and committed, I’ll send out submissions and thank-you’s. I’ll start rewriting with purpose. My next few months will have enormous focus. The friendships I made and reconnected with are my “tribe”. They are women who can advance my career, my joy and my self-image, (and I, theirs.) The surprise of the conference was something I didn’t see coming, a chat with a young woman that will change both of our lives.

No regrets for the PB&J Girls as my friend Arletta and I start home. Coming off a writer’s conference is like jumping in the car after a family reunion where, for a few miles, everyone laughs about Uncle Ralph’s corny jokes or Grandma’s lumpy gravy—or maybe the connection we made with a shy cousin in the hallway when we both started to share our hearts.

So I’ll get my husband a great gift and take him to dinner in a few days. But, sorry, honey. We're taking the ferry to Victoria tomorrow morning. Gotta discover Emily Carr. Like we found the Panama Hotel in Seattle, of THE HOTEL AT THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET fame. See ya!