Monday, April 27, 2009
My Head Exploded!
I've been pondering for three days how to talk about the past weekend. Words seem so small in expressing how much my life changed over the course of two simple days. I've been standing in the doorway, waiting for something to change and suddenly I've been shoved into the open and find my feet racing down the path before me.
Friday and Saturday I attended the 6th annual LDStorymakers Conference held at the Marriott in Provo Utah. I couldn't stand to wait for Friday morning, so I sent out a request to my online writing friends at Authors Incognito and asked if anybody had a spare bed Thursday night. Thankfully Kellie opened her door for me. I picked her up from the airport and we spent a wonderful evening visiting with old friends and making new ones. We spent time with Julie Wright and Rachel Ann Nunes. We saw Shirley Bahlman, BJ Rowley, and Tristi Pinkston. I didn't want to go to bed, I was having such a wonderful time, but at long last I drifted off to sleep and got up the next morning ready to rock.
Unfortunately, I didn't get up early enough and was a few minutes late to boot camp. Thankfully my dear friend Shari saved a spot for me at Julie Wright's table. The morning hours with our group were amazing. The different authors presented lessons in ten minute segments, then gave us twenty minutes to critique the work of those at our table, specifically working on the area just presented. Our table was awesome, all very good caliber writers.
The first happy bit of my day came when I read five minutes of my chapter from The Troll Princess. Everybody laughed in all the right spots and when I got done reading somebody said, "I wish I could write humor like that." There weren't many comments on what I could fix. In fact, Julie said "I've got nothing for you." That felt awesome.
I spent more time talking to people than attending classes, but it was where I needed to be, and at 4:50 I had a meeting with agent Amy Jameson to review a part of my manuscript. I was prepared to be hammered, but again . . . nothing. Every page she turned was minus red. She gave me a couple of things to consider but said she liked it, though when I asked if she'd be interested in representing something like it, she had to say no as she is not a reader of high fantasy. I was okay with that.
Not long after that I was told by a certain editor that she is trying to get her publisher to find a place in their schedule for my books. That was jaw dropping for me. I knew she liked my writing, but for her to still be going to bat for me nine months after my phone call rejection blew my mind. It was literally a jaw dropping experience for me.
I switched rooms to stay with my hat sister, Shari, and her daughter, but couldn't sleep that night. My nerves were so jittery knowing what I faced the next day: the contest winners announcement. I had entered two stories: the one I'd reviewed with my boot camp table (the troll princess), and one I'd written last year at the BYU Writing and Illustrating for Young Reader's workshop with Brandon Sanderson (Newtimber). I told myself not to expect anything, but after taking first in fantasy last year and first and second the year before, part of me felt like I had a reputation to maintain. I couldn't help but hope for something, anything, to place, but I knew I couldn't set my heart on it.
The results were announced Saturday at lunch. I could hardly eat, the nerves were making me so sick, but I choked down my food and scoped out my path to the stage--just in case. I was terrified that if I didn't I'd do a faceplant on my way up if I was lucky enough to place. The announcements started and my heart began to pound. My entries were one each in the Youth and Speculative fiction categories, which of course were the most heavily entered and were saved for the final announcements. The longer the announcements went, the harder my heart pounded until I seriously thought it was either going to explode out of my chest or I was going to pass out.
There were five places given in the Youth category. I kept waiting to see my name pop across the screen when they announced each place, but . . . nothing. I took a deep breath and tried to slow my heart. Unfortunately it wasn't listening. When speculative fiction came up I had fingers and toes crossed. Fourth place. No. Third place. Not me. Second place . . . at second place I started praying. Still nothing. First place? I held my breath and waited, but again . . . nothing.
I told myself not to be disappointed. They had 175 entries after all. The competition was just too fierce. I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and hoped my heart would slow down before I had a heart attack.
One more prize and I held little hope. I scanned the floor, looked at the tablecloth, glanced around me, as they began the announcement for the grand prize winner. They drew it out for a long moment and then the name of the chapter flashed on the screen: NEWTIMBER. I buried my face in my hands for a moment, hardly daring to believe, but when I looked back up, my name was beneath the chapter. Newtimber, by Karen Hoover. My heart still pounding, my knees shaking so hard I was sure I'd biff it, I stood and made my way carefully to the stage, only tangling my heel in a bag once. I was in shock. The room was screaming and clapping and I felt like a freakin' rock star as I took my prize and turned around. I seriously considered bowing for a second, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it, so I gave a dorky little wave and went back to my table, still reeling from the announcement.
I thought that was the end of it, but no, then they gave a speech about how there were so many amazing entries this year they couldn't help but give one more prize--a SUPER grand prize. What? Yes, a super grand prize of an Amazon Kindle 2. For a moment I felt a surge of jealousy, but then I realized it didn't matter. I had won! It blew my mind like nothing ever had.
My friend Shari said it was like a reception line after that. I spent the next few hours getting hugged by people and getting congratulations and my head continued to spin. All this was happening to little old me? It was the first time I realized I was no longer the person I had been a year ago. Losing Mom and finding such amazing success during this conference had transformed me into something more and it was with great humity and gratitude that I moved throughout the rest of the day.
It wasn't just my success that made me so happy though. My amazing friend Julie Wright got herself an agent! I am so thrilled for her I can hardly stand it. I've never known a more hard-working, deserving person. I have learned many, many things from her over the years we've been friends and my gratitude extends to her possibilities now as well.
There was more that evening, but I won't go into it now--this blog is long enough. Let's just say there are some very real possibilities opening up for me and as soon as I know anything for certain, this will be the first place I share it. For today I am content. I know who I am now. I have found my purpose and the doors are opening. Humbled and content, I'm taking those steps down the path to publication and at last can see the light shining before me.
It's not just going to happen. It's happening now. My head just exploded and I couldn't be happier.