Thursday, February 4, 2010

Clumsy and Insane in PA

I promised a whole post on the embarrassing part of my recent Query Travels trip. Here it is…

After driving nine hours to PA, I arrived at the hotel to have what I shall call “an episode in clumsiness and insanity.”

Because we had selected a location nearest the venue for where I was to see Janet Reid the following morning, I imagined that she just might be staying at the same hotel. Silly, yes? I know.

Still, that thought had somehow been turned into paranoia in my brain. Until, as I stumbled out of the car on my travel weary legs into the night, I felt nearly convinced she could be watching my clumsy as* from one of the windows. Surely she would see my computer bag, think “ah, a clumsy writer for me to point out and destroy tomorrow,” and I would be doomed before I ever arrived. Being very tired, nervous, and thrilled (I was going to learn from Janet Reid in person! Yes!) all rolled into one, combined with this paranoia and a strange environment didn’t help.

Mom brought a cart to put our stuff on. I helped load it up, surreptitiously trying to disguise my laptop bag while watching the windows out of the corner of my eye. I laugh when I think about it now, but I could almost hear the “Jaws” theme music playing.

So I start to push this unwieldy cart inside. The thing does not want to cooperate with me! The edge of it totally bumps into one side of the sliding glass doors, popping it off the track. Of course, I don’t know that, so I think I broke the door. I stand there with my mouth hanging open.

Just then, I look up to see a sharply dressed woman coming through the doorway—she’s obviously a guest, not an employee. She looks at me and the situation. And I say… “I think I broke the door.” Like an idiot. Without missing a step, she keeps on walking, but she frowns.

At this point, my paranoid brain goes into overdrive. I have no idea what Janet Reid looks like. So, naturally, I think… “Oh my god, I broke the door in front of Janet Reid!”

I can see in my mind the scenario of the next day. I pick a seat at the very back of the room; try to look inconspicuous, hide and duck as much as possible, still she finds me. Not only that, but my query letter is now number 30 of 30 in the rankings and I have to come to the front of the room to discuss the finer points of my epic failure. To be fair, even in my nightmare scenario, Janet teaches me from my mistakes…in front of the entire gathering, but still.

In a panic to save myself from the dire fate awaiting me, I scramble to fix the door. Is it fixable? Yes! Thank God I can pop the darn thing back on its track! And look, as I move into the sight it works like it should!

The stupid cart is moved on through. The lady—who I later learned was NOT Janet Reid, of course---came back and saw I had fixed it. She said nothing, but she smiled at me. I felt a little better. At least, in my newest scenario, I no longer heard the “Jaws” theme and the lighting in my “room of doom” wasn’t as dim.

When we got up to our room, I still worried about the whole thing. I searched the web to see if I could figure out what Janet looked like—to no avail. And the insanity just got worse. I hadn’t slept in days. Work, nerves, the thrill, and the newness of everything just overwhelmed me.

I paced the room as I made Mom laugh with these scenarios of what horrible things would happen to me the next day. My sister called to torment me. She threatened to drop Janet a line, and she might have done it too if it wasn’t so important to me. The Caits loves to prank me…and I got her good with that Jacob shirt! Laundry day is coming!

Mom tried to reassure me, but I was hopeless. Eventually, I took my medicine and went to bed.

Bright and early, I was up and at that meeting. Good Lord, you should have seen me. I felt like I was off to Kindergarten again. Mom had to walk me to the door and everything. And before she left, I hesitated three times. Janet is the Query Shark, but a gathering of writers is deceptive…like a pack of piranhas in murky water who claim to be vegetarians. They make me super nervous. And I hardly slept at all the night before. I probably looked like a vampire--and one of the youngest among them so an easy kill too—dressed in black, pale as can be, quiet. You wouldn’t even know I have been writing for as long as I have if you would have seen me that day. Mom should have brought me a lunch for emphasis, and handed it off right at the door.

When Janet spoke that morning, I did get up the courage to ask a question. I phrased it this way… “I hope this isn’t a stupid question, but…” And she said, “There’s only one stupid question. Do you know what it is?” Of course I didn’t. I thought it was mine. She then went on to say, “The only stupid question is, ‘Where is the ice?’” I hope I quoted her correctly. I think I’m pretty darn close. Anyhow, you get the point. She’s brilliant and funny, while I epic fail again. I almost wish I had a magic mirror to look back so I could see the expression on my face. Truly, it must have been the blankest look one person ever gave another. It’s just that I was overwhelmed by Janet—I find it hilarious how I couldn’t give a crap about an actor or singer, but present the Query Shark to me and I act like I’m five. I guess it’s all in who you respect and admire for their work. Sherrilyn Kenyon is also hella awesome. But I’m getting off topic.

That afternoon, I sat in the room with 30 other writers, Janet, Suzie, etc. One by one, she had us all state our protagonist’s name and what happens to them in ten words or less. Almost everyone failed. One guy got it—I didn’t envy him because I knew he had to make his whole manuscript fly. You have to win a few thousand battles before you win the war.

When she got to me, I started out okay…but I got caught up. “Nevaeh must save her family…” Janet interrupted.


I replied, “She loves her family.”

“Why?” she countered. Basically, she didn’t believe the approach. She wanted me to start differently, so she said, “Nevaeh must decide…?”

I repeated, “Nevaeh must decide…” And for the life of me I hadn’t a clue what she had to decide! What decision could Janet possibly be referring to? But I repeated twice more… “Nevaeh must decide…? Nevaeh must decide…?” while trying to figure it out. Plot point after plot point ran through my mind. The whole time I must have looked quite the idiot. Not that anyone else had it particularly better off than I (other than the one guy). Yet, my goodness, I don’t know how she stood me that long. Finally, she moved on saying she would come back.

Later, Janet came and sat down with me. I mention this in an earlier post so I won’t go into it again. She was great.

When we got back to the hotel, I was bone weary. Still, I went right to work. That folks, is the extent of my insanity.

I am glad to say that once rested, I no longer hear the “Jaws” theme. After my initial psyched period, I have set back to work on my manuscript. All is as it should be.

But I can’t help thinking…somewhere there is a random lady who is laughing to herself because she gave the “look” to some clumsy b*tch who nearly broke the hotel door. Said lady looked on with disapproval when she probably couldn’t have given a crap, while the clumsy b*tch looked like death warmed over and felt like it too. But she turned it around in the end because I did. I imagine how much more dramatic that night could have been to my paranoid mind if I hadn’t—if she hadn’t. Amazing what smiling at a stranger will do, huh?


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