And, while the South Dakota Book Festival didn't literally send me back in time, I did kind of do a little time travelling when I was there.
We've already talked about what it was like to run into former professors, as well as authors I have known of in one way or another for years. But what we haven't talked about is what it was like for me to rediscover... well... me.
Before I left last Friday, I made up some personal business cards. I was also taking my company cards, but figured I should also market myself. My old cards had listed "Copywriter, Editor, Proofreader, Baker" on them, but I've found that I've gotten more and more away from the copywriting, so I made up a new batch that say "Writing Coach, Editor, Proofreader, Baker" because I've had so many great compliments from authors about how I do when I'm working with them along the way. And I like that coaching aspect, since there has always been a bit of teacherliness in me.
When I was at one of my first sessions, I handed the presenter one of my cards, and he asked if I was an author, and I said "no." Because, you know, I spend 8 hours a day editing and proofreading and doing all those kinds of things - not writing. So I kind of apologized and said "I'm an editor." I don't really know why it is, but for some reason that seems to end up as an apology much of the time when I'm around people who call themselves writers.
On the other hand, while I was wandering around meeting and re-meeting people, I was also handing out cookies with my business cards. After all, if you're at a conference where "writing coach" doesn't get people's attention, there's a very good chance that they'll remember "baker." And that resulted in some fun interactions. Like someone walking up to me the next day saying that she had told someone else that she'd gotten cookies and he had asked if she had really eaten a stranger's cookies. And then there was Sonia Manzano, who - when I saw her a couple of hours after I gave her the cookies - said, a bit shyly - "I ate all those cookies." (And, yes, that did great things to both my sense of "people will remember me" and "Ohh... Fanboy moment!")
Then, somehow, it dawned on me somewhere in the middle of everything, that I've been published. In three different books. And on the walls in one exhibit. All juried. No favors, even though I knew the organizer. Published. A published author. Yes, I'm an editor, but also a published author.
Okay. So... Over the course of 26 hours, I had realized that I am, in fact, an editor who bakes. A Writing Coach, Editor, Proofreader, Baker - and Author.
Remember how excited I was when I was looking at information about who was going to be at the conference? That's how I learned about the professors I could see, among others. And I found a name on the list of volunteers that kind of made me stop. It was a name from my past. Someone I knew from college was on the list. A guy I had really respected and looked up to. One of the first people I came out to when I was about 25, and just figuring out my life. And who then completely dropped off the face of the earth. So many people I've known who found out I was gay have just said "Oh. And how's your family? What have you been up to?" And yet that one person who just disappeared from my life is the one who bothers me. I had a few moments of panic - a little fight-or-flight time - after I realized he was going to be there. I reached out to some other friends for support. I figured out that it would happen one way or another. That was that. In for a penny, in for a pound.
Two hours before the end of my time at the conference, I was sitting in a hallway waiting to host my final session, and processing all the rest of it. The room I was about to walk into, he was about to walk out of. And, somehow, after 26 hours of fanboying, and passing out business cards and cookies, and meeting people, and schmoozing, and having a really good time, I realized that I was pretty much okay with it all. Okay with my job. Happy with who I am. Thrilled to have Christopher at home, and family and friends who support me no matter what.
I thought I'd go to the Book Festival and learn a little about editing. Meet some authors. Hang out with some people and talk about books. Instead, I found myself going through 28 hours of intense personal therapy. Not exactly what I thought I'd learn during two days at a Book Festival, but, then, the best books always do have a way of surprising you, don't they?