Monday, July 31, 2006

Conference: Life and Writing

I've been staring at this blank screen for about five minutes now, wondering where to start. I'm tired this morning, though not as bad as I expected, since we did manage to get a decent night's sleep Saturday night. Laying down in my own bed last night felt so good! The hotel beds were really nice, but there's nothing like your own bed.

Conference was an exciting experience, as usual, and it was filled with those challenging moments that illuminate your strengths and weaknesses. Though I hate seeing the weaker side of myself, I grow inch by small inch in confidence each time I can get a handle on whatever situation I find myself in.

My first challenge upon arriving was an unexpected one. I have a phobia that I rarely have to deal with here at home: I'm afraid of heights. We ended up with a room on the 22nd floor, which would have been fine, except the elevators were all made of glass! My first time up must not have gone well, because the Playfriends took one look at me and became concerned. I was a little worried myself, because I knew I'd have to go up and down those elevators all week. Having to make the trip to the 47th floor to visit the Mavens didn't improve my outlook, but I had no choice but to face this head on. By that evening I had worked out a system: stand fairly close to the doors and stare at them while the elevator moved, all the while maintaining a death grip on the rail. The next day, our roommate Kathy told me to widen my stance, bracing my legs to ground myself while the elevator moved. This worked like a charm!!! By the last day of conference, I could even stand in the middle of the elevator away from the rail if I had to, as long as I kept my feet shoulder width apart and stared toward the door instead of out the glass. Accomplishment #1!!!!

As was reported earlier this week, I received two requests for partials at my editor appointment, which was wonderful. An even bigger accomplishment for me was not getting so nervous that I couldn't be coherent during the appointment. :) I learned the first time I pitched that going in there prepared was key for me. Though it meant keeping myself, and several Playfriends, up until 1:45am, I honed both pitches until I could say them with confidence and not feel dorky. I practiced what I wanted to say to introduce myself and how I would respond if I messed up (just smile, shrug, and go on). Luckily, the editor I pitched to was very personable and friendly and PC's critique partner had an appointment at the same time, so we conversed while we waited to stay relaxed and distracted. I only stumbled a few times and felt I handled this situation with relaxed, but professional, confidence. Accomplishment #2!!!!

I volunteered during the Literacy Signing, along with several other Playfriends, where I was given a stretch of approximately 40-50 authors to fetch and carry for. As an introvert, introducing myself to total strangers isn't high on my fun factor list, but with each handshake it became easier. And it proved to be good practice for the rest of the conference, because I had the opportunity to introduce myself to many people I didn't know and many others that I'd met before but hadn't seen in a long time. Practice really does ease the way. Accomplishment #3!!!

There were some great classes offered during this year's conference and I attended as many as I could between other obligations. One I especially enjoyed was presented by Susan Elizabeth Philips, this year's RWA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. If you ever have the chance to attend a workshop by this classy, spunky lady, I highly recommend it. Anyway, there was one sentence from her class that stuck in my mind, hopefully taking root so I'll remember it the next time I'm looking at my book and worrying that it is crap. She said, "Don't worry about writing the perfect book; Worry about writing a compelling book." This took a lot of pressure off, because oftentimes unpublished authors think that if their books aren't perfect, they'll never sell. She even gave examples from her early books' imperfections. I came away from this workshop encouraged and inspired. Accomplishment #4!!!!

But this conference wasn't all about the writing! The bonding time with the Playfriends, Mavens, our roommate Kathy, and fellow Heart of Dixie and Southern Magic chaptermates was premium. Sharing the ups and downs of conference with them enriched the entire experience and created memories that will bond us even closer. That's not necessarily an accomplishment, but a treasure that can only strengthen me as a writer and a woman.

Upon arriving home, I discovered that my worst fears had NOT been realized. Everyone was still intact. The house wasn't a disaster. My husband had coped admiringly with changes to my elaborate babysitting schedule. My children looked like they had grown a bushel, but they hadn't forgotten their mommy while she was gone. I even got home in time to see my daughter discover her first loose tooth!

All in all, this has been a good week. One in which I've grown as a writer and as a person, facing out of the ordinary challenges with courage and a lot of fear, but facing them nonetheless. And that is good, because this will enrich my life and my writing. Because life is what the writing is all about, don't you think?



Problem Child said...

I'm so proud of you, Angel! I know it's tough for introverts to get out in the mass of strange people, but you did fantastic!

Many congrats on the requests. They're great books.


Smarty Pants said...

By the end of the conference, I noticed you weren't huddled by the elevator doors anymore. Good job! We also got you to dance which I think is a great achievement.

Next year, who knows what we'll get you to do...


Linda Winstead Jones said...

I have no fear of heights, and I still stood with my nose to the elevator door for most of the week. Whenever that one interior elevator opened up, we all went "yeah!" as we danced across the hall. :-) That was just too much.

Way to go Angel, on the elevator front and on all the other good news!


Playground Monitor said...

Be careful, Angel, or next year we'll be blogging about you and calling it "Girl Gone Wild." *ggg* Congratulations on your requests.

By nature I'm a quiet, introverted person but I decided a while back to change that. I still get overwhelmed by crowds at times and want to retreat to a quiet room and a good book, but I've learned to take a deep breath, go up to someone, hold out my hand and say "Hi! I'm the Playground Monitor." I met bunches of new folks this year and touched base with all of "my people" as you guys love to call them. *g*

Instigator said...

Brain dead. Need sleep.
Baby Girl was up several times last night and stupid me stayed up late to talk over things with my husband (thinking I'd still get a good 8 hours in. Boy was I wrong. I should have just crawled into bed at 6 PM when I finally walked in the door.

I'm really proud of you, Angel! I know how difficult it was but I think the fact that no one other than the playfriends were even aware of your elevator issues says alot about the calm you handled the situation with.

And I so hate to say I told you so but....didn't I predict that you'd get 2 requests? :-) I'm really excited for you. I know even better things aren't far behind.


Maven Linda Howard said...

Angel, you're a trooper. All of you are. I'm so proud of the Children, each and every one of you.

Angel said...

Ah, y'all are all so sweet and encouraging! I really appreciate it.

You know, going to my first conference in New York was a life-changing experience for me. But I thought that was because it was my first conference. I found out this time that Nationals is a chance for me to grow in a lot of different areas. I hope that never changes.

Rhonda said...

Angel, just wanted to chime in and say how proud of you I am, too! I'm not afraid of heights, but those elevators *were* intimidating.

Glad to hear that you're growing in ways that make you proud of who you are and getting over fears. I do all right in small crowds, but big ones seem to suck all the confidence and energy right out of me. I'm doing better and like you, am proud of myself. :-) I've grown so much as a writer and a woman since I joined HOD that I got a tattoo of a butterfly on my foot to commemorate the metamorphosis. I'm there for ya, babe, if you decide you want one, too. :-)