I just returned from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio. What an adventure! I hope you don’t mind while I take a few posts to tell you all about it because there was too much goodness for one post. If you went, leave me a line and let me know what you thought. And if you’d like more info on it, visit Humorwriters.org.
Do you remember the bathroom scene in the movie Carrie? Carrie has the audacity to start her period during school hours, right after gym class. She runs from the showers, scared and confused, and the other girls pelt her with tampons and chant, “Plug it up! Plug it up! Plug it up!”
This is how I imagined the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop would be for me, a not-a-real-writer. Well, except they’d be chucking pencils at my face and chanting, “Learn to write! Learn to write! Learn to write!”
I don’t know why I felt this way. After all, the other attendees were Erma fans, and she was possibly the nicest person in the world. Also, I had had contact with many of these people via the EBWW Attendees Facebook Page, and they were all lovely…funny…helpful. There’s nothing scary about funny, helpful, people unless they’re trying to get you to try coke for the first time.
So, my husband drove me, we only live about 30 minutes away from UD, and when we arrived I asked him to stay in the car.
“I don’t want to be the lady who had to have her husband walk her in, okay?” He understood.
I put my chin up, and walked in…to the scariest place in the world. Mariotts aren’t really all that scary, but when the lobby is full of excited, squealing women deep in hugs and conversations, and you’re all alone with your throat closing in, yeah, it’s pretty damn scary. Part of me wanted to run back into the arms of my husband. The other part of me wanted to…well, it also wanted to run back into the arms of my husband. But, before I could, I saw a familiar face.
“Hi!” I yelled over the other voices, “I recognize you from the Facebook Page. I’m Rachel.”
“Hi, Rachel. I’m Gianetta.” my new best-friend said. We made some sort of small talk for a minute and then I checked in.
At the elevator I was fine. Inside the elevator, it suddenly hit me that I was terribly scared and alone. I haven’t been alone in nearly 10 years. It seems I’m always with my children or my husband. Anymore the only time I’m truly alone is when I run to the grocery store, but even then, I’m familiar with the layout of the place and friendly with most the employees. This was not like that at all. I knew no one. I had no idea where I was going. And my room was located at the end of the hallway where they filmed The Shining. This was the Mariott of Despair!
I dropped my bag off in the room, not even even taking a second to check the place out, and then dashed back downstairs, flew across the parking lot, plopped my ass in the seat next to my husband and wept.
“Kinda overwhelming, huh?” I got the feeling he was expecting something like this to happen.
“Yeah. Yeah.” I furiously wiped away the tears that would not stop. “It’s just…God, I’m so stupid…why am I crying. Why am I scared of this?!?!” I started getting angry. “Why am I so scared of everything? I really want this and I’m so stupid and crying and these women are real writers, not just mom’s who blog during nap time and make 0 money doing it. I’m so stupid…”
He let me rant. Then he said, “There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just overwhelmed. And you’re here by yourself. It’s probably a lot easier for people who are here with someone. You’re by yourself and that’s awesome. You’re awesome.”
It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.-Erma Bombeck
Well, I didn’t feel awesome. But after his little pep-talk, and a quick glance in the mirror to make sure I didn’t look like a Powerpuff Girl, I went back inside, found my new best-friend Gianetta, and asked her if I could sit next to her.
Gianetta was the greatest person I could have found at that moment. She let me express my fears to her, she let me know I wasn’t the only one feeling anxious. She introduced me to a few people and showed me where dinner would be held. While she and I and another new friend, Leslie, were talking, yet another friendly lady, Anne, came up and said to me, “Oh, you said something funny on the Facebook page today.”
“Um…Oh, the thing about the missing soap?”
“Yes! That was so funny!”
She couldn’t have known what those words meant to me; how they calmed my nerves even more.
Eventually, I went up to my room to unpack. I changed for dinner. I looked through the new Erma bag I received at registration. Then the pacing began as it got closer to dinner time. The despair was returning. I told myself I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t just go up and talk to people. What if they laughed at me and not because I’m funny but because I sound like a hopeful idiot.
Gee whizz, Jiminy, one day I want to be a real writer!
I had to stop myself. I stared at my door and said out loud, “Go on now, go! Walk out the door!”
So I did. I left the room, and I hummed I Will Survive all the way down the hall. I think Erma would’ve been proud.