AWP Day 2

Britt finds me amidst the crowd and she is all smiles and awake. In other words, she has slept.

“Oh my God, are you ok?” This is the first thing she says to me that registers in my brain. I explain, or stutter, about the lack of sleep. The anxiousness. The travel.

“So tell me about the workshops you’ve been too, the panels, whatever. Did you go to the one on self-promoting and networking?” I ask.

“Oh, I didn’t go to that one. Me? I don’t have anything to market yet. Once I have a manuscript, once I have something complete and whole, then I’ll work on that stuff. For now I’m just trying to get out there, introduce myself to as many people as possible, and feed the generative part of my process.”

Britt’s always been like this. She can tell it like it is and summarize perfectly without even knowing it. Her monologue hits me right where it hurts – in other words, right where I needed it. For two weeks now I’ve been fretting over this conference, and no wonder, with all the pressure I put on myself. I don’t have a manuscript either. I have works in progress, the shifting of sentences and verb tenses, the arrangement of chapters. I am here, like everyone else, more than half of whom probably also want to publish memoirs and who also have perfect little dreams that they’d bet their lives on. I am here. So what.

I have to enter the calm. I have to be patient. The freelancer in me wants NOW and wants CONNECTIONS and thinks that the way to go about this bookwork is to search, search, search until the right connections are made. But later, Cass reminds me: “It’s about finding someone you trust. And you have time to do that. Just get to know people, see who you like, who you respect. That way when you’re ready, and you actually do have a manuscript, you know whose hands you want to put it in.”

She makes it sound so easy.

Enough is enough. Sleep is a priority this afternoon. Then relaxing, also known as letting go. Letting go of all the dreams because, really, I’m already living and practicing them. They’re simply unresolved right now and that’s what’s killing me. But no writer wants to give away the surprise ending. Why would I want to put that on myself?

I resolve to stop worrying. I resolve to be in the present, wherever I am on my path with the memoir work. I resolve to get some sleep, somehow. I resolve, I resolve, I resolve.

[There have been, of course, several choice moments. For example, poet Madeline Defrees asking my advice about her Starbucks card and where to use it – she’s 87 years old, I think – and concluding her speech with, “I’m a fan…and a shareholder.” Also, a choice quote from a lovely publisher, “I had three scotches last night, woke up at six this morning and worked out, then drank a protein shake. Just like home!” And of course, when Cass and I went to the panel on Journalist who crossover to creative writing, and the esteemed Valerie Miner steps up to the podium for her panel speech and says over the microphone, “Can everyone out there hear me? Katey, would you mind, just give me a signal if my voice drops to low, ok?” The entire room spun around to see me, in the back row, the named person whom Valerie was talking to. I felt halfway famous for a millisecond, and that was, well, FUN.]

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