You can always tell a real friend: when you’ve made a fool of yourself he doesn’t feel you’ve done a permanent job. – Laurence J. Peter
Change, friendship and timing are the words swirling around my head today. Here in central North Carolina, the season has definitely changed to summer (for the moment). Even after a decade living in Arizona, I am re-astonished every year by the absolute wall of heat in the South. Add in the Southeast’s humidity and the past two days have completely taken my breath away.
The Lovely Daughter’s junior year in college is just about over so there is another change a-coming as she heads home for part of her summer. We’ve achieved a certain rhythm after the Handsome Son’s departure, but now MDR and I need to switch back into house-sharing mode. I know that being back here is a shock to the daughter’s system as well – she’s fully autonomous over her life at school, except for the weekly calls with us – and now she will be subjected to the laser focus of loving parents.
There lots of other things on the horizon that I will no doubt report as the months pass by but for now we will concentrate on switching gears. So there’s your change.
Last weekend I attended a writer’s retreat hosted by the Washington Romance Writers and it was an excellent way to leave the cocoon of a winter working in my home office. It’s one thing to work at a book signing on a weekend, then spend time with pals and then drive home. But for me, it’s a whole new can of beans to stay and mingle for two days.
My friend Mary L (of the blog I mentioned last week) had invited me way back in January to talk about promotion for the writer. Now I work mainly with one, already famous, writer, but I am never shy about giving my opinion so I accepted. Four months later I was cursing myself and letting that Head Cheerleader’s voice come to the forefront:
“You’re not as interesting as you think.”
“Who is really going to sit for 45 minutes and listen to you?”
“Are you going to wear THAT?”
I’ve gotten better at shutting the voice down before she does too much damage, so I let her finish one cycle of negativity, then promised the voice that if she would just shut up I would let her have a shot of tequila when we were done. Then I finished the presentation, which ironically I’d based on building a margarita.
Hey, it was a more casual retreat and I presented just before the bar opened, it made sense in the context.
It went over well. Actually I went over well – by 8 minutes. And that was after the voice shrieked five minutes into the session that I didn’t have enough slides and the whole thing was going to be over in 15 minutes so why didn’t I just fake a fainting spell and get out of the room. In an ambulance.
The Head Cheerleader’s voice, you notice, gets a little more aggressive when she’s been told to pipe down.
When it was all over, I settled down and had a beer. Honestly, they just didn’t have my brand of tequila otherwise I would have honored the promise.
Finally, the cloud of nerves opened up and I could look around at the conference clear-eyed. Great raffle baskets, beautiful flowers, high energy were the orders of the weekend. Underlying it all was that pulse of strong, unadulterated friendship as groups of pals expanded and contracted, as aspiring writers talked to some of their favorite published authors, as excited writers came and went from their appointments with editors or agents.
You would think a conference like this would be ripe for the miasma of jealousy, but if it was there it was well hidden. I’m not naïve enough to think that when a group of writers who mainly work alone are put into the company of other writers there isn’t a bit of comparing and contrasting success. But for this weekend, that was put in the corner.
The one workshop I did attend was given by a group of friends who blog as the Waterworld Mermaids. They met at this very same conference in 2011 – newbies to the group one and all – who found each other and grew a friendship that is energetic and alive. And full of glitter, I think. To me, they exemplify all that is good about a writer’s conference: the relationships that are nurtured with other writers. And the chance to find friends who never think that a foolish moment is a permanent one.
So there’s your friendship.
For me, the best conference souvenirs are new pals. After this weekend, I have a ton of Facebook friends I can’t wait to follow. But just as at the national conference last summer where I met a new, dear friend from England, this weekend I met a person just destined to be a pal.
And I learned again about the universe’s sly sense of timing. (You knew it was coming.)
When we had to the time to chat during the course of the weekend, it turned out Miss B and I had lived parallel lives that actually intersected in 2000 when she was part of a group of romance writers I hosted at a Barnes & Noble in Scottsdale. None of the things that made sense in a friendship now were there a decade ago, but when it was least expected there she was – trying on my new shoes.
Not looking foolish at all.
I’m curious to see where the winds go next.
Laura Reeth lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with the man of her dreams. With kids off at college, she no longer plays the role of active, day-to-day parent, and has moved into the complex understanding-parent-of-nearly-adult-children role. The main difference is she gets more sleep now.
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