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If I’d kept a diary for a few days like this, it would’ve looked much like this:
It's about mid-afternoon and I'm so excited I can hardly breathe! Thank goodness I didn't have to write a blog last night because I can't focus on one thing at a time. My suitcase still has to be packed. I still have to buy groceries. I need to clean the house. I need to get at least three loads of laundry finished. I mentally ticked everything off my list throughout the day. Not to mention that Thursday, I was about to embark on my first journey as a writer. Physical journey, I suppose.
I was going to a conference!
Every time I thought about it, I was filled with excitement just bubbling over the edge and spilling out around me. I couldn't wait until Thursday! It was going to be SO much fun!
Thursday, April 24:
Mildly in a panic when I realize I'm actually going to a conference. For writers. Going to a conference for writers. Okay. Breathe in through the nose. Breathe out through the mouth. Breathe in through the nose... Hell, it's not working.
I'm halfway home. It's not even noon
"Ringadingding. Ringadingding. B###* Muth*$^&&$## F*## &$@# @$$*(@&!."
WTH is that?
Crap. The cell phone.
I speed through a light, reach for the phone. Please. Please. Please let this be Hellion saying that the conference is cancelled and I'm getting my money back for being an idiot and saying I was going.
You still coming home on Sunday?
*hard swallow* Yup.
I arrive home, still trying to remember how to breathe. It won't be that bad, I tell myself. Hellion will be there. She will be your bumper. She will talk to everyone and no one will notice you don't know how to.
Except we're taking separate workshops. Crapola.
I look at the clock. Look out the door. Hellion is tearing around the corner like the hounds of hell are after her.
Here goes nothing.
Friday, April 25 @ 10:00am
I feel much calmer now. We arrived at the hotel without me accidentally making a jump for it. Hellion and I parted ways at the airport last night, me off with a girlfriend to the conference hotel (eek!) and Hellion off with our crit partner, Dee. I'm all alone right now, trying to remember to breathe. My fingers are numb. Probably from the two Venti Starbucks I just had. I have a baby shower to decorate for first before I make my decent into my very own personal hell complete with perfect strangers talking to me.
This gives me the cold sweats.
I'm off to inhale some helium. This might help calm me down.
Friday, April 25 @ 12:20pm
Oh hell. Oh hell. Oh hell.
There are people downstairs registering!
Surely it can't be too late for me to tuck my tail and run the other direction is it?
I contemplate this as I ride the elevator back up to the room. Not only do I have cold feet. I'm rather cold all over. Maybe I'm coming down with something that will allow me to stay in the room all weekend and hide.
All is quiet in the hall as I sneak back into the room, undetected.
Wait. It that my cell phone flashing? I gingerly walk towards it, and pick it up like it might burn my hand with acid.
One missed call.
I step away from the phone and it rings. Okay, I went pretty far away from it. I take a deep breath, feeling rather sick to my stomach. I call her back.
We're here. Are you coming down?
*deep breath* Would this be the moment to say no? That would mean I didn't bring my big girl panties and everyone knows ninja's always wear their big girl panties in case they are stuck in an elevator during a fire alarm.
Friday, April 25 @ 2:30pm
I didn't have time for cake. I need cake. People are going to sit next to me and talk in my direction.
You can do this. This is your genre. This is the reason you came here you nincompoop. Just walk into the room.
Except I have to sit in the front because I'm blinder than a bat at noon
I put my head down and sit in the front. My awkward long legs almost reach out into the middle of the aisle. I quickly fold them back, wrap around style like yoga. The workshop instructor smiles and I flash my best smile except my inner Chandler rears his ugly head and it's more like a smirk with a bit of torture lips thrown in, probably some crazy eyes. She shrank back.
Yup, me at my finest.
I sit there quietly, head down, notebook ready. Just let me get through this. Just let me get through this.
She's introduced and I notice all the books on her table. Examples, she calls them. Heaven, I silently refer to them. All of them authors I love and adore and instantly I feel much better. I feel at home with my inner reader. And as long as I stayed one with the reader, I was going to be okay.
I even managed to jot a few notes about my para series.
Thank goodness for small favors.
The Chicago Spring Fling 2008 was my first conference. This was the first opportunity I had to actually go out and feel like I was a writer. I've got to tell you that I felt anything but a writer when I first arrived. It's easy to pretend in your mind that you can accomplish nearly anything, including 100k before September 01, but when you step into the world of actual published writers, your sense of accomplishment dwindles, at least for me. I was a nervous wreck.
If any of you have met me in real life, I either tend to babble a lot when I'm nervous or I'm extremely withdrawn. I babbled all the way from the airport to the hotel and all night, almost until 2am. Babbling, for some reason, is my natural defense against an extreme case of nerves. I didn't know anyone but Hellion and Dee
Oh boy. I had no idea what I was in for.
Several months ago, Hellion and I were emailing an author by the name of Leslie Langtry who innocently admitted that she was going to be at the Spring Fling. Here is where I'm going to admit that I might have made my decision to go a little easier at the time. I got to see people I had been missing for a while and I get to meet an author who's book made me snort aloud with laughter? Sign me up.
Wrong! *mental head smack* Someone needs to take my decision making abilities away from me!
I make it back downstairs from the baby shower and I see Hellion in her flaming red hair wearing all black (She knows how to represent for the babes, because I was wearing all black too) and I see another redhead. Instantly, all conversation flows to a halt.
Leslie Langtry in the house!
We hug and make plans for drinks and our workshops are starting, so Hellion and I steer away from each other. Crossover fiction for me. I'm feeling rather sick at this point. Being on my own. Pretending to be a writer. Nothing more dangerous than that combination (Other than me, a bottle of Tequila and a dry bar).
I learned a lot in that first workshop. Went to a Q&A with three of the headlining authors, Christie Ridgway, Debbie Macomber and Eloisa James. I’ve always loved to listen to other people talk about their lives. Even writing. This was a good thing for me. I loosened up a bit. Headed upstairs to chill and then headed back down for another course on how to write romance (which I needed in a bad way- and learned a lot about pitching – the six minute synopsis of your book that will sell you to an agent- and how to submit.) In the process, unfortunately, the subject of what is wrong in romance. What is written versus what is factual. And one of the things that came up was “Does anyone really end up with the guy who just pissed them off to no end at first sight?” And I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. I put my head down, but I didn’t do it quick enough. Singled out. And it was all I could do to choke out. “NO! I don’t want to share!”
Thank god I wasn’t pitching this past weekend.
After that, it was the chocolate reception. And then it was night time. The first day was done and over. I survived.
I think the best thing for me this past weekend was the speeches. All the keynote speeches I sat in on inspired me to be a better writer. That’s it. I said it. A writer. When you read a book, these authors suck you into their world. They know how to draw you in and for them to share that with you is one of the most awe-inspiring moments I’ve ever had as I’ve walked this path. They inspire me to go out there and write something more visual, filled with imagery that as you read it, you feel like you’re there. You can smell the clover in June and the fallen leaves in October. That’s who I want to be when I grow up.
Alright, I have a lot more where that came from, but I’ll save it for next week. I just wanted to give you a little of the conference. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. If you ever have a chance to go to the Chicago Spring Fling, do it. You won’t be disappointed.
When do you feel most inspired? Ever attended a speech or a workshop or a conference? What kind of impact did it have on you? And as readers, what draws you into a book?