Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Overcooked Meat and Streaming Mascara

It was the best of times during the worst of times. 

When I registered for Moonlight and Magnolias Romance Writer’s Conference I had no idea what to expect.  I had no idea it would be a magical weekend of writer bliss.  I also had no idea I would have to leave my mom in life threatening condition in the hospital to attend.  And, I certainly had no idea how much I would need my friends, the distraction of the conference or the hope of getting a literary agent at such a time.  On top of this, add to the list of things I didn’t know: my thoughts on what the luncheon would entail on Saturday…

The afternoon I sat down at the white linen covered table for Eloisa James’ keynote luncheon with the rest of the #CRWbadgirlz I was anticipating generic words of writer encouragement served with overcooked meat.  I should have known better than to expect anything ordinary and mundane from the lips of writer goddess, Eloisa James.  There was dry beef but that’s not what I want to tell you about today.  What transpired over lunch was a total sob fest with me in the front of the room and guys with cameras milling about filming a documentary.  My deepest, most sincere hope is that they did not catch my streaming mascara, puffy eyes or blotchy skin on film as I am not a cute crier.  But, I digress.

Have you ever felt as if you are the only person in the room and a speech is being given to only you?

I’m not sure how Eloisa James knew what was unfolding in my life or exactly what I needed to hear that day and yet she did.  She told of a time in her life when she had nothing but a computer with a broken E key and no money for a replacement—I can relate.  She told of a strained relationship with her mother.  And then she told of a time when she longed to say, “I paid off my student loans, Mom.”  “I’m a best seller now, Mom.” Only by the time those things were true, it was too late and her mother was gone.  And this is when the tears started gushing.

I suppose I should back up and mention that I spent the previous day pitching to literary agents all day.  It was an amazing day of success that I will never forget.  I’d worked toward that moment for years and I felt like my dreams were finally within reach.  I even got asked for my full manuscript—which I was not expecting—only to return to my hotel room with my great news, call my parents, and discover I had been given medical power of attorney in the same day.  I knew my mom was not likely to survive the heart surgery she needed so desperately, but this seemed to drive that point home.  Extreme highs to extreme lows. 

After years of writing and working and writing some more it felt as if it might finally be happening, this dream of publication.  And there was a good chance my mother, like Eloisa James’, would not be there to see it. 

But then Eloisa went on to explain how that pushed her writing to a higher level.  She advised us to use the fear and raw emotions of our lives and channel them into our character’s plights.  So, as I sit here today in the ICU waiting room, I am attempting to channel my fear for my mom into what Lillian must have felt when her father fell ill in Thief of Hearts.  The endless waiting to learn if this will be the minute when that beige phone across the room will ring with news for me, not knowing if it will be bad news is the fear Eloisa James was talking about.  And if my heroine survived six years of this torment, I think I can make it for another hour.

So, thank you Eloisa James for making me gushy and ugly in public but most of all for reminding me to use the bad in my life to create good fiction. 

If you were at Moonlight and Magnolias this year, were you inspired by the keynote speech?  I would love to read your comments.


Heather McGovern said...

You know I've been there, with that horrid beige phone and the endless waiting. Not a hard to please mother, but an adoring father, who saw the world in me and I in him. I spent 30 yrs of my life ever conscious of making him proud and I know, even though he isn't here, he'd be so proud of me now. He'd be my biggest fan! That bragging parent. I write because of what happened to him. I write because the pain of dealing with his accident was too much. I had to find a land of make believe again. I needed happily ever after. I found writing ... And I found you. Bonus! Sometimes life goes down a path we'd never choose, but, in the end, there are some flowers along the way.

Elizabeth Michels said...

Thanks McGovgov! I'm glad I found you too! I don't think I would have survived the past year without your support, the #CRWbadgirlz making me laugh and being able to disappear into a world where happily ever afters exist. The twists and turns on the path of life are curious, aren't they? I know your dad is very proud of you! Thanks for the hugs and plying me with copious amounts of alcohol this weekend. You're the best blog partner and M&M roomie ever!

Elizabeth Michels said...

It's a sappy love fest on the M Shelf tonight. Have anything Kleenex worthy to add? We would love to hear from you.

Eloisa James said...

Someone sent this on to me... I'm so sorry you were having such a heart-rending time. I do hope your mom sailed through that operation. Thank you hugely for your kind words! Those speeches take forever to write, so believe me, I treasure the fact that I seemed to speak to you.

sending along a big hug for you -- Eloisa

PS the typewriter key was a silly joke (though the lack of money behind the joke was real enough)...

Elizabeth Michels said...

It was an amazing speech, Eloisa! My mom is now recovering in the hospital, which is a complete miracle. Thanks for the well wishes and the hugs!

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