Well! So much good stuff happened at the conference I will need more than one post to deal with it.
Now, even if you aren't a writer and you are reading this, fear not. This more of a "lovin' life" post. Besides, I believe that when we are working toward our dreams that the feelings involved are so similar that it is almost irrelevant what the dream is. In other words, I think you can relate anyway.
It has been quite some time since I have done anything that has taken me as far out of my comfort zone as going to this conference did. If you know me, you know I'm not much of one to get worked up over things. In fact, I actually like to step out of my safe little zone - keep having new experiences and learning new things, you know? But this conference? I felt like almost like a teenager about to go out on a date for the first time ever. Excited, nervous, curious, hopeful. But then, what if it was a major let down? At least I'm old enough not to have been worried about what they would think of me. That was a bonus.
So - off I went all alone to Virginia City with only the comfort of knowing I would meet there (for the first time) another member of ANWA, the writing group to which I belong.
After checking in at the motel and getting some dinner - a whole story in and of itself - I made my way to the St. Mary's Art Center where an evening reception was being held. From the parking lot I texted Kristin, the other ANWA member, to see if she had arrived. She had. She was upstairs by the cookies. (By the cookies - I knew I would like her.) Now at least I had someone specific to look for.
I took a deep breath, feeling like I was stepping into a whole new chapter of my life, and mounted the stairs to the old brick building. Mind you, all this time I was also questioning myself as to why I was making such a big deal out of this. The grown up voice in my head told me, I am an adult. I have been to other kinds of conferences before. How different can this be from those? I need to act my age (translation: in control, and frankly, boring). Well, pooh on acting my age! I was excited and felt no need to rein myself in. So there.
I did keep enough control of myself to at least appear professional, though.
When I opened the big wooden door I found a very friendly (warning: You will read this word often in the next few minutes, because seriously, these people were FRIENDLY!) woman who directed me upstairs and told me to, "Just follow the voices."
A momentary side trip to describe the art center so you can get the whole picture. It's an historic, supposedly haunted, red brick building fronted with beautiful white columns. The interior is wonderfully maintained, has great, sturdy staircases, wooden floors, and is filled with that distinctive 100 year old building smell. Very cool.
Anyway, when I reached the top of the stairs - BTW, 'follow the voices' was very good advice. The place was abuzz in conversation. - and gave the woman at the check in table my name, another woman, Suzanne Morgan Williams, a published author of 12 children's books and one of the main organizers of the conference, gave me a big smile and said, "Oh Tracy, I've been waiting to meet you."
That was my introduction to SCBWI. Talk about feeling welcome!
My face must have shown my surprise because she went on to explain, "I've been seeing your name for weeks now."
Oh. The benefits of having an 'A' last name. That didn't diminish the warmth of her welcome, though. I later learned that most of the people at the conference knew each other, too, so the fact that my name was new to her helped as well. Can I say again - friendly? I told her that this was my first conference and she practically lit up and went off about what a great group of people the Nevada chapter of SCBWI is, so friendly and willing to talk to everyone.
Yeah, I already picked up on that.
She enthusiastically encouraged me to jump right in and not be afraid to approach anyone. How could I possibly have been afraid anymore after a welcome like that?
I must say, that this 'first date' was off to a splendid start!
More of the reception and Saturday classes another time.