What a conference!
My first Realm Makers conference ended last night.
I tried my best to stretch it out afterward by spending hours in the virtual bookstore, and finally checked out with several books (yay!) and heavy eyelids and dry eyes (explain that in a couple of minutes) and powered down my laptop. I thought I'd drop off to sleep right away, considering the five hours of sleep per night I'd averaged the past six or seven weeks, but no. My mind and my heart were unsettled. The conference start and the conference end...I won't forget them. Ever. Anyone who was there would tell you the same thing. If you write speculative fiction, want to write speculative fiction, or just love it, go next year. Just go.
The entire conference was so much more (OK, wait. Bend your arm at the elbow, and lift so your hand is in front of your face. bend your fingers at the main joints so they make a "7" with your arm. Raise your arm straight up, so the 7 is as far above your head as you can get it, then lift up onto your tippie toes. Right. That high.) than I thought a virtual writers' conference could be (drop back off of your tippie toes, relax that arm, drop your hand down like you're petting a golden retriever. Right. Somewhere around there).
Top notch faculty made up of talented, down-to-earth, funny, and lovely authors, agents, editors, and publishers teaching fascinating, useful, timely, and unforgettable classes, workshops, and panels. And, oh, the dedicated, friendly, over-the-top-helpful administrators/coordinators/moderators - you know, the conference TEAM. I met separately with one agent and one publisher, both highly respected in the industry and both blew me away with how approachable, helpful, positive, and genuine they were. Their suggestions were fantastic and I loved their level of enthusiasm, even while they maintained impeccable professionalism. I went in a nervous wreck and emerged not just relieved, but impressed. All those things you might imagine a writers' conference would include were there and they were great.
I don't know about you, but when I experience something intensely emotional - say, a range of emotions starting with outrage then incredulity, then a little reprieve but then more incredulity, then hanging on hoping someone throws me a lifeline, clawing my way up, gasping for air, desperate for the misery to end, then finally realizing it's going to be okay, the end is near and the end is good - I cry. Everything starts under. Under my ribs, the soft underside of my forearms, and rushes up, to under my chin, under the roof of my mouth, to the underside of the top of my nostrils, to the lower rims of my eyes. My eyes tingle and burn and as hard as I try, I can't keep those tears from spilling over. Ask my daughter. She'll tell you what happens when I see someone in pain. Not from stubbing their toe. From having their heart broken. Happens when watching a movie, happens when someone brave stands up and gives their testimonial at church, happens walking down a hallway when someone tries to hide their face so no one can see the hurt.
Anyway, after all that under and then over business, my eyes are dry for the next full day. Sandpapered wood-dust dry. I'm glad the conference was virtual this year, because that closing keynote...well, it would have been kind of weird bawling in the midst of almost four hundred people, even if the majority of them were bawling right along with me. I recovered, but I'll never be the same. And it was humbling and uplifting to be in a crowd of people being blessed by a woman who is the bravest soul I've encountered, and understanding fully that I have no excuse, ever, to set my dreams aside. And while the content of that keynote isn't mine to share, I hope you'll take some of this here and believe you are worth it - the fears and doubts, the pain, even, all the effort it takes day in and day out. Keep your eye on the prize, don't listen to the naysayers, listen to your heart and move forward.