Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Day my Breath Sang in my Geek Lungs

 I was sitting in my seat in the cool auditorium, beaming down good vibes on our speaker for the evening, Elizabeth Berg, anticipating the next two hours with tangible relish. It was like I was slicing a happy cake and sitting there with a large wedge of it on my porcelain plate, ready for the first delicious bite, fork poised.  Elizabeth Berg slips on her reading glasses and peers down at a yellow sticky note and says "Is there a Toni House Evans in the audience".  My physical reaction was so clich├ęd.  Slow motion, face turns red, eyes bulge, heart beats hard. Don't have a coronary Toni, you'll miss the talk.   It felt surreal to hear my name come out of her mouth.  In a crowd of several hundred. Plus I'd never heard my facebook name said aloud before so I hesitantly raised my hand inch by inch while I said in my head.  Yes, that is me, right?  That is my maiden name with my last name.

She spotted my hand finally, as I raised it high and grinned like an idiot. 

"I need you to see me afterwards.  I have something for you." said Elizabeth Berg.  To Toni Evans.

I was speechless.  Now anyone who knows me knows I am never short of a word or ten. I was now breathing in and out choir music through my lungs.

She went on to give a heart-warming, realistic, and thoughtful talk about becoming and being a writer and author.  I did my best to absorb each word.  I took notes. I said to myself, 'Self, use all your senses here, breathe it in, this is the good stuff'.

I have to pause here for a confession.   Somehow(??) on the day before this conference, when she posted on facebook page about her upcoming speech, I got uncharacteristically ballsy and posted a link to my blog post about her  on her facebook. And she read it.  Here is the proof, I just can't resist storing it here for my grandchildren to see (Someday. If my kids ever get married. Wait-- will Blogger still be around?...):

So I have a written compliment from my favorite author and she said my name out loud in public.  "But wait," the universe said, "there's more!"

Afterwards I perused her books and bought one (even though I already own every single one)  so that if I told her who I was and she said 'And I care because?' I could just give her my book to sign.  I got at the end of the line. This guy was carefully handwriting everyone's name on a sticky note and placing it on the correct page for Elizabeth, so she could more easily sign and keep the line moving and didn't have to ask how to spell, etc.  I assumed it was another of the many conference volunteers being gracious.  But when he got to me he stopped and chatted and said "I'm Bill by the way."  I had just given my name so I just kind of smiled nervously and bobbed my head and he said 'Her Bill' and he nods towards the book-signing table.  Suddenly my face became very animated and I got very friendly, because just like every other blood-sucking celebrity fan out there, I thought I might get some little insight or morsel of Elizabeth-ness from him.  We chatted for a while as the line was long and slow-moving.  I liked him.  He was not intimidating at all.

I guess I used up all my charm on Bill, because by the time I got to Elizabeth I said something non-sensical, and then Bill said something like 'this is her' and then Kelly standing nearby leaned down at the same time to say "This is the Toni you were looking for earlier" or something like that, the blood was pounding in my ears, drowning out reality.  I then said something unnecessary as she was signing my book, along the lines of "I think I've read them all except this one." Even though I have read this one (?).  Then she said "I have something for you. A signed first-edition of my first novel".  Except in my ears it was like trumpets and her mouth moving and I just smiled and nodded and accepted this from her:

So I then asked for a hug and leaned across the table very awkwardly (I'm not even a hugger) and she said 'What?  I thought said you were going to show me your tattoos?'  Yeah, I'm a silver-tongued beast. As I floated away from her table, hoping to get away before I did anything to spoil the iridescent-glitter haze I was in, Bill stopped me and said "There aren't very many of these in existence."  pointing to my gift. My signed, first-edition copy of Durable Goods. I just kept saying "Thank YOU" and smiling and backing away.

By the way, that photo was taken on my hotel room bedspread minutes later, before I pulled the ribbon and peeked inside.  It now has a place of pride in my living room. I have only shared this story with about three people, because if you aren't a book-lovin' girl down to your toes, I will just sound crazy here. (So if you are thinking She's crazy, it is ok, I don't blame you.)  But hey, blogging is about transparency, and it just doesn't get much more transparent than this.  At least not and still be fun to read.  Which is one of my goals here.

Bottom line: I am worthy.  Regardless of how I come across in person. The memory of July 25, 2014 is tied with a white satin ribbon and always will be.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Writer, Know Thyself.

I love to write.  I do not love much else about being a writer.  This is what I learned at the Midwest Writers Conference last weekend in Muncie, IN.  It was a well-organized conference with great resources, entertaining speakers, friendly but serious attendees, a lovely facility we based ourselves in, good vibes, good food.  Everything you can ask for in a conference.  So I highly recommend this conference to anyone who feels attending a conference will boost their writing life and road to publication. A fantastic writer's conference.

However, as the three days passed, I became more and more despondent.  I was morose by end of Friday.  I had learned that I don't like networking (hate is an ugly word), that I don't care about Twitter, that my platform is basically a few grade-school teachers who haven't died yet, that my work in progress has the wrong-age protagonist, is too short for the genre I was going for, that my main character who I love needs to be cut out in favor of a sub-character coming to the front, that there are lots of amazing writers out there, who read out loud works they had created in the last few moments and they were awesome to hear.  My query letter was so confusing and nonsensical that the critiquer was speechless.  One of my comments in my pitch closely resembled a 'Don't' in a later speaker round-table.  Now, is it good to learn about everything you are doing wrong?  I am sure that is why I paid the money.  But I learned that I don't want to know all this.  I really, really don't want to know it.  I wish I could un-know it.  These are my feelings. But don't give up on me, see title of post.

I want to write in my room for myself.  I love writing.  I love the creative process that comes from no-where-ville and appears at the end of my fingertips.  I apparently am allergic to anything related to becoming published because all it did was make me feel unworthy, clumsy, and cynical. 

I felt my desire to write dwindling, and  I realize now why I went to a conference in 2003 at Iowa Summer Writing festival and haven't been back to one since.  I went back to my journals and see that after attending that conference, I packed away my muse for 15 months.  How can a person forget that ? (rhetorical question, I forget a lot, different blog post)

On the bright side, I also had a mountain-top moment during the Saturday evening session with Elizabeth Berg.  I want to savor it and keep it to myself for now, but I'll write about it eventually.  It made the trip so worthwhile.  And to learn something about yourself is always a great thing. I learned that getting out of your comfort zone is really uncomfortable and many writers have these same issues.   I learned my time would have been more enjoyable spent in my hotel room writing non-stop for three lovely, long, solitary days, but that is because I am a flawed and imperfect human-writer.  But perhaps more enjoyable isn't always best?  I'm learning more about myself each year.  Good to know, good to know.