Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nothing but a glorified midget wrangler.*

Congratulations to Kat - she has secured her place for the time being - it will take a while to catch up with G-Sauce.

This weekend was absolutely fabulous.  I had two conferences, my very first writer's conference and stake conference.  Both were great but today I am going to talk about the writer's conference.

It was held down at the Richmond Library...downtown, the land of one way streets and minimal parking.  I'm happy to report that I was able to find a parking spot easily enough, I only got turned around once.  I'm getting better at this downtown thing (thank you Institute).  Once inside, they had clear directions on where to go, which I was grateful for.

I got there, signed in, made my name tag and found a seat and sat down.  I knew I would know a grand total of two people there and I'm pretty shy/reserved in new situations, so I just looked at my phone and waited for the people I knew.  Lana (the leader of my writing group and the author of Freakling) sat at the front because she was part of this meeting.  Melissa was late.  But the people who sat near me were really nice and the lady who sat directly beside me was telling me all about her adventures finding the place.  I liked her.  1) Because she had a fantastic story about trying to find the building, a story that beats any story I have of getting lost.  The woman ended up on some terrace where no one was really supposed to be and couldn't find her way down and finally spoke to a man on the sidewalk who helped her climb down from wherever in the Richmond Library she ended up.  That's impressive. 2) She called me legit when I said I wasn't legit.  She said I was there and I write, so I'm legit.  I'm legit folks, I'm not published but I am a writer.

The writing conference began with announcements and then a speaker.  She had us do this writing exercise where we imagine ourselves in our youth and we think of a time where we really could have used someone to help and understand.  Then she had us write down that age.  Then we closed our eyes and we spent some time with that person.  I picked 15 - but you know, I think I just put Past Jessica into age ranges.  The incredibly awkward, tweety bird t-shirt wearing stage vs. the sans-chocolate, get a job, join track team, lose weight, gain confidence stage.  So I addressed the girl who had dark, unruly hair, painted her nails black, had braces, glasses, and wore over sized  tweety bird shirts and baggy jeans.  Have you figured out why I picked her? Why I felt she could use someone?  So we closed our eyes and we spent time with the Past Selves. 




Have I mentioned how incredibly awkward I was? I mean, Present Jessica has tried to eliminate all evidence from this stage in my life because I can't look at her, because at times I still feel like I am her.  So I had to take this time to remember what it felt like to be me during this time in my life. 

Then we opened our eyes and we wrote a letter to that past self we were just visiting.  For a moment I questioned if I was at a writer's conference or if I was in a group therapy session.  Either way - it was helpful.  So we wrote these letters, we took a break and then we got in to groups according to what age group we write to.  I of course went straight to the first "Young Adult" table I saw.  Melissa also writes young adult, so I was happy to have someone I knew at the table with me (Lana is middle grade and so was my new friend that first sat by me). 

The first thing we did was go around the table and tell a little about us and what we write.  Then we had the "opportunity" to read the letters we wrote.  Melissa was brave and volunteered to read hers.  I remember thinking, "maybe it's not so bad" ("it" being sharing).  I remember having the same thought when Melissa submitted some of her story to the writing group.  The facilitator would ask after a person shared if anyone else was interested and it made me laugh because reading was voluntary but I felt like it was going to keep going until we all read.  The woman who read before me addressed her letter to a different name because at that age, she had decided to be called something else.  I loved the tone in which she wrote, it was fun and honest.  Anyway, I've already had a spoiler because I said she read before me, so when the facilitator asked again I fought against my churning stomach and said, "Ok, I'll do it." Then I looked over at the woman who had read and said, "My name is Jessica and was always Jessica."  So I started, "Dear Jessica,"

Life sucks but it will get better.

Okay, that wasn't my letter, but my letter isn't here by my side and it said basically this.  It was hard to get through, revisiting pain that I had long forgotten because I have spent years knowing and understanding more than I knew at that time.  I still feel awkward from time to time (uh, waiting for a writing conference to begin), I still get my heart broken, tears still come and pains still sting.  We don't lose the ability to feel as we grow older, our hearts don't grow to steel (unless we want to deny the possibility for anything good to come in to them).  Growing up doesn't mean things get easier, if anything, growing up shows us that the past is trivial, the present is always the most demanding and the future is the most uncertain and scary.    That being said, I wrote to past Jessica and told her over and over that it would be ok.  Today it's a mountain, tomorrow it will be a molehill.

When I finished reading, I heard, that was beautiful; which one of us hasn't felt that way?; thanks for sharing, all over the sound of my racing heart.  I smiled and thanked everyone as I wiped my sweaty palms off on my jeans.  That was nerve racking. 

Then we wrote a response letter.  Past self responding to present self.  I thought the first assignment was hard.  How would I have responded to this letter?  Not only was it difficult to think how I would have responded, it was difficult to leave out what I already knew (that it would work out, that what I was dealing with was trivial).  So as much as I would have liked to respond with decorum, it was mostly whining, "This is trippy, getting a letter from some 30-year old version of myself, but honestly, you're full of it.  Who are you to tell me that it doesn't matter, it's my mountain and you've likely forgotten how hard this is.  It's easy for you to say, on the other side of things, that everything will be okay, but I've still got to live through it.  I haven't gotten there yet and getting there is the hard part."  Again - not exactly what I said.  When we went around to read our responses, I respectfully declined.

After the event, Melissa introduced me to several of the people that she had met previously.  I got business cards and got some advice for submitting my work.  Melissa and I agreed to go to some of the upcoming conferences where we will have the opportunity to talk to Agents and Editors, and another one where we will discuss social networking.  I'm doing this folks - I'm finally getting serious, not about writing - because I've been doing that, but about getting my stuff out there.

That being said - this morning I sent a sample of the story I am working on to Lana.  If no one else has submitted, then we should be critiquing mine next week....eek.


G Sauce said...

17 Again

G Sauce said...

My name is Jessica and always was....that was soo funny! I might have peed myself if I had been there and heard that. Die on floor laughing. Then peed myself again if I had to read that letter out loud.


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