Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Finding balance

Does anyone else have trouble finding balance in their lives? I have a personality type where it's sort of all or nothing. I have trouble focusing on more than one thing.

If I'm writing, I'm writing to the exclusion of all else. If the writing is going well, my hunger signals don't even get through to me. My house doesn't get cleaned, supper is a simple meal thrown together, or Brian cooks. I forget to read my Bible, etc. Because I'm writing.

If I get on a cleaning kick, that's all I want to do--clean and organize.

For the moment I have a new focus that's distracting me from all my work. In a way I'm on fire to write after the conference, but I haven't gotten to it yet. No writing or reviewing--I read two books that I have to write reviews for--and no blogging for a month, just my new obsession.

So if you have trouble balancing the various aspects of your life, but have found a way to balance, please give me some tips. I don't want advice from those of you who have always been able to find balance with no trouble. I don't want to hear from you, because I don't like you. *smile*

But if this is a problem you've overcome, please share.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gratitude, part 3

Forgive me for skipping yesterday. I’m simply not in the habit of blogging regularly anymore.

The rest of the conference. Wow. Great classes. I especially enjoyed John Olson’s continuing education class on writing the Big Idea. High concept, big characters, writing in the shadows. So much to absorb, I’ll have to read the notes over and over.

The other two classes that really stand out in my memory are Rachel Hauck’s and Susan May Warren’s. Probably because they made me laugh. But they had good tips, too.

I didn’t introduce myself to anyone on Friday and Saturday. My cold hit hard and I like to keep my germs to myself. It was hard to be social when I felt like I should be walking down the halls crying, “Unlcean! Unclean!”

Since I haven’t had a cold in probably 3 years, I kept asking God, why now? Maybe so I’d rest every once in a while instead of feeling like I had to attend every session.

My nose was so drippy Friday I’m sure anyone who happens to remember my face will remember me as the girl who was always blowing her nose. In fact, there might be photographic evidence of that.

My roommate gave me an antihistamine Friday night, and I slept great. Felt much better after that. Saturday and Sunday my cold was only a minor inconvenience. Even so, my assertiveness was gone.

We had a gathering of Midwest authors Friday before supper, and I met Linda Rondeau. (I hope I spelled that right.) We made a connection, in part because one of her genres is sci-fi/fantasy, which I enjoy reading. And partly because the same editor likes our writing, but isn’t interested in the books we’ve written. She had an encouraging word for me every time I saw her, and she gave me a nice hug goodbye on Sunday.

I met one final person at breakfast on Sunday. Rachel Ingle. (I hope I’m remembering correctly. My memory has had nearly a week to get fuzzy.) We bonded over a love of raw milk, of all things. We’re both Minnesotans. We talked so much over breakfast, I ended up telling her about the deaths in my family, and she shared a personal loss that happened to her years ago. When I said goodbye to her, she said she’d be praying for me.

By the way, it was at that breakfast I decided I couldn't wait any longer to blow my nose. Right in the middle of the process, I saw a big flash. Sure enough, the conference photographer had the camera aimed in my direction. Sigh.

What I shared doesn’t do justice to the kindness of everyone I met. They are the reason I want to go back next year. Denver would mean flying and more expense, but I’ll wait and see if it’s God’s will for me.

My heartfelt thanks goes to anyone who had anything to do with the planning of the ACFW conference, and to all the volunteers. You helped make it an unforgettable experience.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Gratitude List, part 2

I'd like these posts much better with some pictures. Unfortunately, I left my camera at home.

After the agent panel Thursday, Carla Stewart introduced herself to me. She remembered my name from the Genesis contest last year. She said she'd seen my blog, and she complimented me on my critiquing skills. She was another person who made a point of saying hi to me whenever she saw me the rest of the time. We ended up at the same supper table that night. Carla was a Genesis finalist this year. In fact, she ended up winning the young adult category.

After supper, I finally had the chance to check in. (Don't worry, I'm not going through the whole conference this slowly. I just met most of the people the first day. And I have to tell this frazzled little story.)

A lovely young woman named Shella--I didn't catch her last name--checked in at the same time, so we got our luggage out of storage together. She only had one suitcase on wheels, whereas I--Mrs. Eclectic Luggage--had a small suitcase, a small duffel bag, and a garment bag. When Shella saw me awkwardly trying to manage the three pieces, she offered to carry my duffel since we were staying on the 8th floor. How sweet and selfless that was.

Okay, the fact that they sent us to separate elevators should have tipped me off. I just thought they were being courteous and getting us as close to our rooms as possible. Shella and I agreed to meet in the middle of the hall once we got our suitcases in our rooms.

I stashed my stuff and set off down the hall. And came to a dead end. Just a door that said "staircase." Went the other direction. Same thing.

Oh, why had I parted with that duffel bag? My snacks were in it (blood sugar issues), as well as all my toiletries. I needed that duffel!

Just then, Donna Alice Patton, whom I had never met, but I recognized her name, was coming out of her room. I asked her if the hallways connected in some way I couldn't see. She sweetly informed me that they were separate towers, and that she'd gone up the wrong elevator to start with. She told me where the other elevator was.

(Donna and I ended up connecting a few more times--ate a couple of meals together. She came in second in mystery/suspense in the Genesis. Hmm... seems I'm drawn to Genesis finalists.)

The editor panel was about to start, so I got in the elevator back down to the first floor. Found the other elevator, which needed a key swipe. My key didn't work, since I wasn't a guest in that tower. Back to the front desk, had my key re-swiped so it would work, and back up to the 8th floor, other tower.

Praise God I have a thing for numbers. I can glance at a number and hold it in my memory for days without trying. I had seen Shella's room number, so I went straight to her room and knocked. She hadn't left for the session yet. She had my duffel bag. All was right in the world.

Back into the elevator. Down to first floor. Other elevator. Up to 8th floor. Put the duffel in my room. Back in the elevator to the 2nd floor where the editor panel was probably already starting.

Did I mention I don't like elevators?

But after that ride, the elevator was a breeze for the rest of the conference. The editor panel was just starting when I reached the ballroom. I sat down and relaxed, having great peace of mind in knowing that I had my room, my sanctuary.

I'm also grateful for a good roommate, Candle. We were enough alike, and enough different that we got along great. I was with her enough that I heard a half dozen variations of, "Candle? What an interesting name. Is there a story behind it?" I wonder how many times she had to say, "My mom just wanted something different." But of course, I was just as guilty as everyone esle when I first heard her name.

The one damper on the conference is that when I went to bed the first night, my nose immediately plugged up. I thought I felt the beginnings of a cold that evening, but tried to deny it. With a stuffy, drippy nose, I hardly slept a wink. Not a great beginning to a conference I knew would be exhausting anyway.

Okay, I have just a few more people left to thank and a few more details to talk about. I should be able to wrap this up tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

One missing piece...

I forgot one detail. In the story below it helps to know that not only could I not check in, but I wasn't listed on my roommate's reservation. Even though I knew she'd added me, and I trusted that, fear got the better of me. After all, I'd never met my roommate before, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get any room at all.

My writer's imagination immediately took hold, and I pictured myself begging from person to person. "Do you have room for one more?" That added to my emotional state.

My Gratitude List (ACFW Conference)

I've been duly chastised by Deb for not yet having a post about the conference.

I had a great time. I hope I'm able to go again next year. Not because of the classes, though they were great. Not because of making a few connections that might profit me. But because of the people.

I knew ACFW was full of great people. Nice, helpful. They answer questions on the email loop so fast it makes my head spin. But seeing them face to face, and having someone there for me anytime I needed them just blew me away.

This may take a few days to write, because I want to drop a few details about the conference along the way, but my focus is going to be a gratitude list. I want to thank all the people who made the conference a good experience for me, whether they know they affected me or not.

Christina Berry was the first person I saw. I arrived at noon and couldn't check in yet, so I went across the parking lot to a DQ to change out of my comfy travel clothes. When I came out of the restroom, I saw Christina. She seemed so happy to see me and gave me a big hug. Then throughout the conference, whenever she saw me she said hi and we talked a while. It was nice to feel like I had a friend there.

By the way, Christina won second place in her category in the Genesis contest. She submitted the first chapter of Undiscovered to me way back at the beginning of this blog. I take no credit in her success, however. The chapter was already stellar when it came to me. I didn't so much critique it as praise it.

Gloria Clover was waiting in line ahead of me to have her luggage stored. I have to explain my state of mind before she'll sound special.

I didn't want to store my luggage--I wanted to check in. I wanted to have my anchor, that place I could go to get away if I needed it. I had planned to check in, have my husband (who drove me) help me carry the luggage to my room. I'd give him a hug and kiss goodbye. I'd take a few minutes to change (instead of a DQ restroom) and relax before facing everyone. I'm such an introvert that the prospect of meeting people is a little overwhelming. I just wanted my room!

I don't know if that does enough to explain how I felt. Things were not going as I'd planned. So there I was, trying to say goodbye to my husband without tearing up. I knew it was stupid to be on the verge of tears--I can't really explain it. A quick peck and he left. I turned to find Gloria Clover smiling at me sympathetically. I'd never met her. She asked how I was doing. I figured it was obvious I was fighting tears, so I told her I was a little overwhelmed.

She let me hang out with her as we registered, then headed to the bookstore. I didn't really connect with her again after that, though I saw her across a room a couple of times. Having someone so friendly and understanding at my side for that first hour or so meant a lot to me.

Oh, it was at the bookstore that I met Deb Kinnard. She was the one and only person at the conference who said my name first. Everyone else, I had to look at their name tags, then introduce myself. But at the bookstore, I heard my name, looked up and there was Deb. We had a nice little talk and she was very encouraging.

Speaking of introducing myself, I surprised myself by being quite assertive that first day. I got to meet several people I wanted to meet. Patti Lacy--one of my first critique partners, Cindy Hickey, Camy Tang, Sharon Lavy, Megan DiMaria. I saw Richard Mabry in a class, but it wasn't a good time to say hi, and then I didn't get the chance.

And I'll finish today with Rachel Hauck. No personal connection made, but she led the worship team. She has a beautiful voice and she led with such feeling that it made our worship something truly special.

I've barely begun to talk about conference, so I'll continue tomorrow.