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!