Our SCBWI conference was this weekend. There were some really good things that happened and some really bad things that happened.
First the bad (because I prefer to end with the positive): our regional advisor wasn’t around because her husband has been very ill…he passed away last night. My own husband and I both travel separately now and then (I travel for school visits, to visit my dad in the nursing home and to attend the occasional writing (and soon-to-be mandolin) conference…my husband travels for his job), but I don’t think I have ever missed him when we’ve been apart as much as I missed him this weekend. I literally crawled into his lap and cried when I got home. (Poor guy…he thought things had gone really bad with my editor, but no…I was just really glad to see him!) There’s nothing like watching someone you know go through the loss of a spouse to make you appreciate what you have. All weekend I told myself I didn’t care how messy the house was when I got home (my husband has a lot of strengths, but picking up after himself is not one of them); I would just be thankful he’s here and healthy and able to make that mess. But then there wasn’t even a mess to overlook when I got home!
Now a list of the good: driving over to the conference with two very good friends, staying up way too late gabbing with one of them, getting up way too early to walk with the other (remember what I said about being addicted to exercise?), the other speakers, hanging out with other writers, making new friends (in particular with one woman I share an editor with and another woman whose life I could have had…like me, she’d always dreamed of being a writer, but she went to medical school instead and has only just gotten back to her writing in the last couple of years. I almost went to medical school! But when it was time to fully commit, that guy I missed so much this weekend told me I didn’t have to go THEN…he knew my dream was to be a writer. He suggested I take a year to try writing first. He said medical school would still be there in a year or two, and no matter how wonderful of a doctor I became, I’d always wonder if I could have been a writer. Since he had a pretty good job, he thought I should take a year to try writing. So, I did…and after one year I decided this was what I wanted…I got pregnant, stayed home with my kids and WROTE…and I haven’t looked back. But this other woman made the other choice. She went to medical school…and well, I think I made the right choice. I SO enjoyed talking with her (though it made me sad to hear she wasn’t so sure SHE’D made the right choice)…I wish I’d gotten her e-mail address!), offering to do a critique for someone as part of the silent auction and actually having people bid on it (and then having the winner tell me she’d be “honored” to receive a critique from me. Good Lord!)…
But the best thing about the weekend was reconnecting with my editor. Despite what I wrote in the last entry, I was a little nervous about this weekend when I found out this particular editor had been invited. I wasn’t entirely sure where things stood between us (for a variety of reasons, which I won’t go into in a public forum like this). But we talked this weekend…and I learned some things I didn’t know before. (I also found out she and I have some weird things in common…) Just hanging out with her reminded me why I liked her so much to begin with. It WASN’T just that she bought my first novel, like I’d been thinking recently. I really did like her a lot as a person right from that very first phone call. We CONNECTED. And she has this knack for just saying something about whatever I’m working on, something that’s so obvious to her that she doesn’t even realize she’s just said something important, something that just makes me RUN with an idea. There are not many people who can do that for me…and no one does it quite the same way she does. I’d forgotten all of that…because there had been some “stuff” between us and because we hadn’t really talked in a long time.
So…while this was probably one of the worst weekends of my regional advisor’s entire life, she gave me quite a gift by inviting this particular editor to our conference and asking us to do a session together on the author-editor relationship. Honestly, if she had told me ahead of time that she wanted to invite one of MY editors to this conference, I might have encouraged her to invite one of my other editors (one I KNEW I had a good relationship with). But I’m so glad she DIDN’T ask my opinion. While I would have enjoyed the face-to-face time with the other editor, I didn’t NEED it the same way I needed it with this editor. As my agent told me this morning, “Face time is so important, especially in the email age where all nuance is lost.” So true! I have a friend who used to make a concentrated effort to take a trip to New York once a year to just have lunch with her agent and all her editors and then take in a Broadway play by herself. I especially latched on to that Broadway play part of that plan when she first told me this, but now I truly understand the point of those trips. Just an hour or two alone, in person, once a year, can make a huge difference in a relationship. Too bad my editors/agent are so spread out! But I’m going to try and connect with each of them in person once every 1-2 years from now on.
Oh! And the friend I stayed up too late with this weekend seems to have connected with my editor, too! It’s very validating when people you like end up liking each other, too.