On Saturday, I drove across the Southwest on I40, which runs parallel to Route 66. It’s 800 miles from Albuquerque to Los Angeles. The distance afforded me a few minutes to reflect on what got me there to begin with.
My daughter had just finished her first year at college and needed a partner for the drive home and I had registered to attend the National Latino Writer’s Conference. A boutique affair with limited enrollment. I hesitated when I enrolled and even considered cancelling at the last minute because I wasn’t quite ready for a writer’s conference, but when my girl called to confirm the timing of her trip home, I felt fate’s fists pushing me forward.
1) I am Latin, but my command of the language is limited.
2) I am a writer who continues to ride the coaster of confidence and uncertainty.
I thought the size of the conference perfect for a writer, come author, an intimate gathering to launch myself on the writing society. It was small enough for me to blend into. As appealing as the size of the venue for a first time conference it was nothing in comparison to my terror over the cultural aspect.
I am Latin. However, my inability to roll r’s terrified me more than being a virgin conference attender. What was I thinking tackling the two at once? I consoled myself with the opt-out-option. No one knew I was going, and no one would have to know if I backed out. If my daughter hadn’t been coming home at the same time, I’m sure I would have feigned a hangnail and opted out.
I am not an eager debutante. I have no dowry or pedigree trailing behind. What did I have to share during the tête-à-têtes between workshops, over coffee and lunch?
I have one completed novel, a second in motion, a string of publications, and the only degrees I have are in Business and Finance. The MFA, I joke, was earned metaphorically, while writing the novel and attending writing classes at night, and in between my outside the home professional life the inside the home, life.
What if I said Mario instead of Mmaario, what if my Gracias came our grass-c-ass.
My angst reached boiling as I dressed the morning of the first day. I hadn’t purchased a new wardrobe, I was arriving in my standard vintage hippy wear. I wasn’t runway perfect and worse, I still hadn’t bother to read the definition of a dangling participle. What if there was an entry quiz requiring me to answer grammar questions, God help me if there was a section on Spanish’s irregular verbs.
The level of anxiety at meeting the authors teaching the workshops exceeded infinity to the power of ten. The number of awards behind the writer’s names is greater than my age. Finally, what would I say to the woman being honored for literary achievement during the evening banquet if by some improbable possibly she sat next to me.
What if I drooled mid-sentence?
What if my verb tense was wrong?
All this went through my head leading up to my arrival at the conference and off and on again on the drive home across the desert.
At mile one I was jamming to Sugarland singing, Wide Open
I’ve been waiting my whole life betting on a change
See it coming getting better getting better now
Feel the shake shake steady of a soul to the flame
At mile sixty-two is was Bob Seger’s, Roll Me Away
Took a look down a westbound road,
Right away I made my choice
At mile one-hundred The Climb, by Miley Cyrus circled ’round
I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it”
As each song cycled my voice reached the heavens. The meaning of the songs wasn’t lost on me. With each tune, I was inspired.
Writing came into my life on the tale end of a shooting star. I wasn’t wishing for change so much as I was offering my soul as collateral. On the morning of the conference, I could almost see it.. the dream I had been working towards. The uncertainty I’ve being carrying melted off my shoulders. I am a writer. I always was and always will be.
I didn’t drool (PHEW). I did say Mario without enunciating the M and the A. There was no rolling of the rrrrs. I sat through amazing poetry readings (most spoken Spanish) and was so carried away by the music of the writer’s voice I felt the meaning even if I missed every other word. As for the woman recognized for her literary achievements, it turned out we connected over coffee. She didn’t walk on air, she breathed in O2 through her nostrils as I do, and she slipped her jeans on one leg at a time, just like me.
The best part of the long weekend, was meeting with an Agent/Editor. She didn’t give me the magic key to the publishing world, but she did impart some practical advice during the one-to-one.
At the end of the weekend, I emerged a different writer. I’m sure I’ll tackle flustration now and again (OKAY more often than not), but knowing I left doubt and uncertainty somewhere on I40, was worth the climb.
Have a moment you recently experience that took you to the other side of yourself?