Friday, September 29, 2006

Day 1, Part 2: Drifting, but not lost

I said often that day that I was glad I didn't have any appointments or "important" events (like the banquet and awards ceremony coming up the next day!). I felt it was my place that day to lie low and just prepare for the next day, for the two appointments with editors, and whatever else was to come.

After the workshop, I dried my tears, met up with Ronie Kendig (who had prayed with me during a really difficult moment earlier in the morning), and the two of us managed to find seats—together!—at Steve Laube’s table. By this time I was reconciled to speaking with him and behaving in an adult manner about his recent rejection of Gift. He remembered me—and Ronie, since his rejection of one of her ms. had come even more recently—and confirmed that he felt I have dialogue weaknesses in the story. Coolness. No begging or pleading necessary to find out just what he thought was wrong. I shared with him my plans for a historical novel, and in the midst of talking about something else, he looked at me and said, “Oh, when you have that historical ready, you can send it to me.” Shiny!

The really neat thing, however, was getting to hear his invitation to Ronie, after they discussed some of the fine points that he had quibbled over in her story, to resubmit once she’s done revisions. Ronie has often bemoaned her lack of “connections” in the industry … and I’ve told her time and again that her writing is so good, when God’s time is right, she won’t need connections … and the doors seem to be flying open for her. One of the editors, a young man working for Zondervan (who is actually beginning to be open to spec fiction for the first time), invited her to submit two full ms.

After lunch I went back to my room to try to nap. I was already sleep-deprived going into the conference … all those nights with a feverish Meeghan during the week, and then only two hours the night before I left, between her and my own racing thoughts … of course I couldn’t nap on the plane, and then my stupid cell phone’s low-battery chime woke me at 4:45 that first morning. Ugh. I managed to get all of an hour’s sleep in the afternoon, but it was better than nothing, and eventually I gave up and went in search of caffeine and my next divine appointment.

Let me backtrack a bit to the morning. I just remembered what it was that had originally pulled me into the prayer room—when I went to turn on my cell phone and call home, I found a wonderfully encouraging text message from my sister. That tipped me over the edge of bewildered and overwhelmed and drove me to get alone for a few minutes and seek the Lord for the day.

Why was I here? I still wasn’t sure. I had determined to speak to whoever the Lord brought my way, to be a blessing to as many people as possible. I’m thinking that I spent the balance of the afternoon with Beth, but I’m not quite sure. (Writing this has reminded me very much of trying to write a birth story—I’m not satisfied just recording the bare details and the words don’t even begin to touch the vortex of emotion that such an event brings ... but everything sort of blurs together and a lot of the wonder is lost in trying to recount it blow-by-blow. I do remember thinking many times that some things are just too intimate and intangible to be written. But I’ve made a beginning … so I must try to finish.)

Evening brought the Faith*in*Fiction get-together in the hotel restaurant. If you’ve never visited the F*i*F forum (link on the sidebar), it’s a nifty place to hang out. I think of it as the place where Christian meets literary—and there was certainly a wide range of people who attended the dinner, so that it was more like where genre meets literary. We didn’t all get to talk to each other, of course—two long tables full of folk. (Deborah Gyapong has some wonderful photos of the event on the Master's Artist blog—I’m still waiting for film to be developed.) Becky Miller and Beth Goddard and I all sat together at one end of a table where Chip MacGregor, Lisa Samson, and J. Mark Bertrand sat at the other end. I discovered at some point during dinner that the petite blonde lady whose sequined blouse I had complimented in the elevator was none other than Deeanne Gist, whose first historical novel A Bride Most Begrudging won a Christy this year. She moved down to talk with us after we’d mostly eaten, and as she shared her writing journey with us, she and I found ourselves squealing over a particular favorite secular historical romance author from our teens. Imagine! At a Christian writers conference … and that God would use such an influence to help shape us to what we are now. And work it for good! Isn’t that just like Him.

As everyone began trickling away, we stood waiting for our checks to be returned to us (it’s always good to leave a restaurant WITH your credit card), Chip MacGregor came down to find out who we were, and to shake our hands. On the way out, I stopped to talk to Lisa Samson—yes, she and I did live in the same dorm for a year at Liberty University years ago!—and to tell Mark Bertrand how much I appreciate his writings. (This was the day my SpecFaith post went up, that borrows from his “Aratus” post.) I did not yet have the nerve to introduce myself to Dave Long …

Afterward, Beth and I headed for the bookstore. I needed to scope out possible gifts, but was so tired that I had trouble focusing on anything but what I wanted to bring home for me. While there, John Olson approached me and asked me to tell him more about my story. (We had shared a bit about what we write the night before at the SF/F party.) So I nattered on a bit, trying to pretend that I didn’t know he was one of my Genesis judges, until finally he admitted that he’d read some of it. With a grin, I also admitted that I had known, through Beth, that he was a judge. That out of the way, we started discussing the work in earnest. He couldn’t remember some of his comments, but when I mentioned Steve’s feedback regarding dialogue, he asked to see some of the ms. again. I, being always prepared, pulled out a proposal and gave him the sample chapters. At some point Ronie came up and I invited her to stay and listen to what he had to say. The awkward thing was that it was one of those situations where the other person’s perception of your work doesn’t at all match your own perception—or intent—and you’re frantically struggling to figure out if the other person just doesn’t connect with your story, or your writing just really is that in need of work. But the conversation remained cordial—he repeatedly expressed his desire to be helpful, and I thanked him for his time.

But oh, the enemy uses these things to play havoc with our confidence. By the time I fell asleep that night, I was convinced that I didn’t know how to write the beginning of a novel, and wanted to lay aside the whole series.

And then I woke my roommates up at 5 AM, having a nightmare.

To be continued … again ....

3 comments:

  1. Geez, do I really bemoan? YIKES! In the weeks leading up to conference, God had told me to close my trap regarding complaints like that. Let's hope there are no more. It's a scary world out there...but like you said, doors seem to be opening.

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  2. My name is Chrisd and we are on Writers for the King group.

    First of all, congratulations on your novel. You sound like you had a great time at the conference. I hope you remember how blessed you are to even go.

    I'm sorry that your work didn't win but you have completed your own work and God has helped you do it. I'm so far away from that point that I consider the finished product a blessing too.

    Thank you for allowing me to read your blog and your experiences at the conference. You are also blessed with a lot of friends and companions there.

    I had a friend Alice Loweecy who went (nominated in the thriller catagory) who went alone. She's so friendly, I'm sure she met up with some people, but speaking from experience, it's hard to go someplace where you don't know a soul. God blessed you in that regard too.

    Congratulations on your nomination and your attendance. What a blessing you received all around!

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  3. Ronie-dear, it has been a while, and you really only bemoaned a few times. :-D

    Chris, thanks so much! I think our paths have crossed elsewhere--on Becky Miller's blog and other places. It IS a huge blessing to be able to final and attend the conference ... I hope to focus more on that as I work through everything that happened. And oh yes, I met Alice!! She's WONDERFUL. We sat together during the banquet and awards ceremony.

    Thanks again for taking the time to visit my blog and to comment! It's nice to finally "meet" you. :-)

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