Tuesday, May 20, 2008
It's amazing how far you have to travel sometimes to find yourself back home.
This particular journey began a bit bumpy as we moved through the dark, rainy roads winding their way toward our destination. The clouds were low and packed the night sky, threatening to swallow the distant mountains like a giant anaconda. (Okay, this could have been my overactive imagination, since I really get anxious driving through anywhere that blocks my view of an open sky.) I'll just say here that we didn't drive back home this way.
When we arrived in Pennsylvania, ahem...the next day (don't ask), and drove through the quaint industrial town looking for our hotel, I felt my world expand like a balloon and move full circle back into the cozy warm arms of my childhood. The layout of the streets, the bread shops, the barber shops, the eclectic blend of people and places both shiny and old--I fell back into that place in spirit that can only be described as home.
I experienced this again, when we were welcomed with warmth and smiles at Shawn's house. As you all know, Shawn has become one of my dearest friends, and she is the reason I said yes to this conference. Immediately (while our four 2-year olds got to know each other with the screaming-and-running-through-the-house ceremony) I felt like we'd known Shawn and her hubby for years and fell into that sacred space of sharing stories, laughing and chatting with a fervor only two gals who've been locked up with twin toddlers for two years can do. Just kidding. (sort of) It really did feel like we were visiting old friends. This was the second time the word "home" surfaced in my mind. Home. Familiar. Loving. Safe. These are the things at the heart of Shawn's family and it was an honor to be welcomed into their space.
On Saturday, Shawn and I walked into the Pennwriters Conference with both nerves and excitement. We had no idea what to expect. As serendipity would have it, we had our agent pitch appointments at exactly the same time in exactly the same room. That really made entering that room a whole lot less intimidating for me, although I still had to mostly read my pitch as my nerves got the best of me. (At least I didn't throw up on her shoes). The good news is we both walked out of there with requests from the agents to send them sample chapters. So, it was well worth dealing with a few (million) butterflies.
Also, well worth the trip was the experience of the conference itself. It truly was like stepping into a three dimensional, technicolor version of a writer's life. You know how we are forced to be solitary creatures by the nature of our craft? (I know, we like it, but that's beside the point) The thing is--going to a conference is like all those things--those things that you read about, research, and try to figure out about being a writer--suddenly coming to life around you. All the terms you've had burned into your brain while trying to figure out this business are actually used by real life people making their living in the writing world. It's real. I think that's the biggest thing I got out of the conference. A solid picture of where I'm trying to go. I highly recommend attending one, although I'm not sure I would recommend a one on one pitch session. It's awkward, nerve-racking and I don't think it shows you at your best--unless you are a robot. It may be better to try and talk to an agent in a more relaxed setting. Like at the bar...when you (or they or both) have had a few cocktails. Just kidding. (Not really)
Anyway, this feeling of being immersed in a world that I have only experienced through a computer screen, the feeling of camaraderie with hundreds of other writers trying to be who they are and what they love--this was the same feeling that threaded its way through the whole weekend.
The feeling of being home.
Of course, we had to have some unabashed fun our last day. Which everyone knows has to include sharks and large quantities of cheesecake. I'll leave you with some images and hopefully some smiles!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
You know the lyrics:
"Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true"
My dream of becoming a writer was born in the sticky, evening hours of a Pennsylvania summer. Well, okay I can't remember the exact season, or day or hour, but I have a vivid picture of lying in my bed as a child one summer night, the crickets serenading me through an open window, reading Madeleine L'Engle's A WRINKLE IN TIME and swooning with that high that only comes from discovering the love of your life.
Words. Stories. Make-believe.
Immediately, she inspired me to create my own world, my own story involving some war between black and white winged and horned creatures that I truly can't remember now, I can only remember the complete sense of euphoria at creating their world, their conflicts and their victories. The kind of joy that tastes like lemon and sugar, the kind of joy that blows everything away like a category five hurricane and leaves only your soul standing there pulsating in exact resonance with the universe.
No, I'm not exaggerating.
Tomorrow, I will be making the long trek back to Pennsylvania to take a more serious step toward fulfilling the dream I dare to dream.
My life somehow is tied to this small strip of land on the planet. My birth, my first kiss, my first best friend, my first speeding ticket twenty-some years after moving away (while just driving through)...and now my first writer's conference and face to face meeting with a dream agent.
I think this state is stalking me.
This also marks the first time I said yes to a friend, an invitation and a chance to take my dream seriously all in one shot. I'll be back next week with juicy details. Unless, of course, I do something completely damaging like throw up on the agent's shoes, which would not be completely unlike me. Then, I will just quietly slither back into blogland and you all will have to pretend like I never posted this.
Let the rainbow lead the way.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
The places and spaces in between...are imaginary.
I'm not going to do a play by play of the query process. I think most of you who read this blog have been there. You know the part that gets hard--the part where nothing happens, the silence, the waiting. Creativity is suffocated, snuffed out in this small space in between. You can't concentrate, you're anxious, you want to start something new, but can't get started because...you're waiting.
This past week I have struggled with the concept of waiting. I have been pre-occupied with this notion--this limbo of life. Because I am in this place--not only waiting for responses on the queries, but waiting on someone to fall in love with our house so we can move...waiting to move, waiting for the weather to warm up, waiting to get over yet another illness from the toxic toddler factory. I am huddling in some illusion of stillness, waiting for the future to arrive.
Today I am finally at that place again where I can remind myself that waiting is just that--a concept, an illusion. Something my mind has made up to separate the place I'm in from the place I want to be in. This space of waiting is a prison, but it is also a lie that I am using to imprison myself. Life flows in one continuous stream, there are no spaces in between. Streams do not start and then stop and then wait to start again.
Why does it take so long to remember this?
Waiting is just another word for opting out, for not participating in life. Waiting is an excuse, a space created to let ourselves off the hook. Waiting for someone else to make the next move in our own life. We think, "I just can't go on, I can't do anything but sit here and wait, I'm so anxious." But, life is going on. Life is moving in its faithful direction...forward. Seconds, hours, weeks, years tick by whether we use them or not.
In reality, waiting is not even an option.
I've been trying to figure out what the opposite of waiting is because it's not necessary movement. Sometimes stillness has a purpose: observing, meditating, resting...but these things have nothing to do with waiting. Waiting is not stillness, it is creativity in motion, only it is creating whirlpools of fear, anxiety and doubt that--if you wait too long--you will drown in.
The opposite of waiting then I believe is trust. Trust that things happen, that there is an eventually and no amount of waiting or worrying or wishing on your part is going to make those things happen. Trust that a response will come or it won't; trust that an illness will pass and that another one will come; that warmth will come and go. Moving forward with life, participating in it, appreciating it, creating when we can, resting when we cannot. This is all we have to do.
What does this mean for me personally? Today it means letting go. Letting go of trying to control the query process by over-thinking it, letting go of the outcome. Knowing that if this novel doesn't make it through the process, I can write another one. Knowing that creativity only stops when we stop...to wait.
What are you waiting for?