When my alarm buzzed I was far from ready to face the day. I woke up that Tuesday morning with a bundle of nerves settled in my stomach because of my upcoming Saturday. Struggling to open my sleepy eyes, I made them stare at my phone and check emails, knowing this would slowly pull me away from my drowsiness. With only one eye open, I skimmed the only message I cared about, which was relevant to that weekend’s event. I read that I would need business cards, which shot me straight out of bed. Business cards? Well, I was fresh out since I had never owned any before. I thought of taking Brian’s and crossing his name out: that would be tacky though. Business cards – what would I write – “Stay at home mom/aspiring writer?”
As I readied, Brian finally woke up and I shared my dilemma with him. As he is the most even-keeled person known to man, when he carried concern in his voice, mine spiraled exponentially. We brainstormed and as soon as I dropped the little one at school and parked flu-stricken baby brother on the couch, I ordered the minimum of 100 business cards online and paid an obscene price for expedited shipping. I would receive them just in time for my big day. Each little card carried minimal info in case an editor, literary agent or publishing house would ever need to reach me.
As each day passed that week I created a new, unwarranted predicament. From a lack of business attire or presentable “business” bag to carry my necessities, by Friday evening Brian’s bag was neatly packed with my stuff, my business cards were tucked into an easily accessible pocket, outfit was chosen, necessary questions written and map of campus printed. I was ready to go.
I woke up early that morning, anticipating how the day would play out. About a hundred steps outside my comfort zone, I was anxious for the opportunity awaiting me. A few weeks prior I had enrolled in a writing conference called, “Write to Publish” at Portland State University. I’m writing a book and need loads of guidance, so thought this would be a good fit. A conference to the likes of this had been on my radar for months and I was lucky that Portland offered one. It was no easy task for me to register as I new it would be an event that I would attend with trepidation.
It was ages since I was on a college campus, but as young as I feel, the fretfulness of competing with 20 something’s made my grey hairs perk up. In addition, as much as I own and greatly value my current job of staying at home with the kids, I know others don’t view this quite the same. My resume carries a gap and my skills of networking are rusty. However, this conference was not geared towards me looking for a job, literary agent, and most definitely not pitching my currently short manuscript to a publisher, but simply professionally seeking the ins and outs of the daunting publishing world.
And daunting it is. I entered the Memorial Union that brisk morning and stood in line to retrieve my badge and swag bag. Behind me was a high school student, also waiting to do the same. At least twice her age, my initial dismay was quickly squashed as an elderly man with a cane hobbled by. Clearly there is no age limit for writing or publishing. I perused the literary vendors, even bumped into a former colleague from the high school where I taught and then it was time for the first panel discussion. Pen ready on my blank notepad, I scribbled notes as fast as my hand would allow. The next seven hours felt like someone hooked me up to an IV and pumped me with information. All my questions were answered and I obtained even more information of this world than I knew possible.
Like many industries, it is a grueling field to enter with many ropes to climb. With the honest advice from publishers, editors, New York literary agents and publishing houses that day, much of the guidance is hard to navigate. Some authors were honest, stating they wrote whatever they knew would get them published. This recommendation I chose to leave behind, as it’s just not me: I’m not out here to “just get published,” consequently I am aware than unless I self-publish it may never happen.
The keynote speaker’s last words were, “Don’t quit your day job.” Although at first agitated by his close, I later appreciated the dose of reality. My dreams are not crushed, but the path I must pave is presently hidden in a far more rugged terrain than I realized. With that said, “Our biggest regrets are not for the things we did, but for the things we didn’t do,” so “Pourquoi pas?” as they say in French. I’ll never know if I don’t try and am driven by sharing and promoting my expat experiences and their results, rather than a contract from one of the big five publishing houses or even an independent publisher.
This conference not only provided insight into the publishing world as I will eventually seek to publish, but as a result, when I peruse books at Powells or Barnes and Nobles and see the author’s name next to a publishing house, I have a great deal of appreciation for what it took for a person’s work to lie on a bookshelf or in an Amazon warehouse. As for my business cards, I’m left with 99 – my neighbor felt badly for me the next day, so asked for one. If anyone needs to reach me, I have a card for you.