I announced to MyHusbandTheEngineer last February that I would be unable to accompany him on the Austin Healey Rendezvous which, mercifully oh, darn, conflicted with the NSNC convention in June. I would have to travel to the other side of the country all by myself.
“I’ll just make you a sandwich board sign that says ‘I’m lost’ and rely on the goodwill of your fellow travelers,” he offered.
I arrived at the Hilton Hartford four hours before the morning session began. I got sick on the plane. I left my dogs with whom I have a codependent relationship in the care of a sitter. It was sooooo worth it!
In the pre-fuel shortage days, planes would circle the airport indefinitely, waiting for a hole to drop through onto the tarmac. No longer! It appears that our country’s air traffic controllers belong to a very exclusive club, and they have lots of time to talk because they ground more planes than they release.
San Francisco tower to BDL, Hartford: “You got weather?”
SFO to Newark, New Jersey tower: “We can’t send the plane because there might be weather in Hartford, and besides, South Carolina found out, so they didn’t clear the plane to SFO. Go back to your book.”
New Jersey air traffic controllers huddle over the next move to make: take in a movie or catch up on sleep.
Air traffic controllers in San Francisco confer, choosing The Hog’s Breath Inn in Carmel for an extended lunch.
The last announcement I heard was that Newark was cleared for dinner and a show, and that there would be a bus to ferry us the three hours to Connecticut.
If Las Vegas did a program for writers, it couldn’t top what Suzette Standring and Bob Haught put together. Headliners abounded! I laughed so hard at Gina Barreca, Jerry Zezima, Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel that I didn’t have to exercise.
I learned how limitless Luenna Kim’s skills are: On top of organizing a conference that ran like clockwork, she noticed that the New York Times best-selling author, W. Bruce Cameron (A Dog’s Purpose) and I would, Mother Nature allowing, arrive in Connecticut at about the same time, and asked me, “Do you want to share a taxi to the hotel?” Is the sky blue?! It was actually raining cats and dogs, and Mercury is retrograde, so our paths did not converge. But Bruce Cameron called me on his cell phone to see where I was!
Dave Lieber taught us never to say, “Bless your heart” to a Texan, and that to make your writing memorable, show, don’t tell. He also graciously shared his secrets for story-writing.
Mike Morin’s pointers made me think I might, in this lifetime, be able to promote my column/book on radio.
John Avalon reminded us that “opinions are ubiquitous,” not always relevant and that humor is sorely missing in the newspapers. (I’m available, John :))
I rode in an elevator to the 15th floor of the hotel with Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel because I was too enthralled with their conversation to remember that my room was on the 5th floor.
President Eric Heyl proved that he is truly the master of ceremonies, and Wow! What a follow-up after Dave Barry!
Emmy Award-winning Rick Horowitz is the go-to person for developing your voice and improving your writing style. Lisa Molinari described how a niche blog can catapult you to the top. Tracy Beckerman, Bruce Cameron and Merry Clark gave us new pointers on using social media to promote your work.
On the return trip to California, I bumped into Joel Brinkley, Pulitzer prize-winning political columnist and NSNC speaker, as we chased after numerous canceled and rescheduled airline flights. (Edward Snowden, I feel your pain.) When I got home at 4 AM, MyHusbandTheEngineer pulled out the Features section of the San Francisco Chronicle and said:
“You rode back with this Joel Brinkley? Tell me you didn’t discuss your version of current events with him.”
“Well, yes, I did, and furthermore, his eyes didn’t glaze over!” (They just got bigger and bigger; he’s such a nice man.)
The above is just the tip of the iceberg! Then there are all the new friends I made.
Be not afraid, newbies, aspiring columnists and bloggers! Be there next year, Washington D.C.! Doesn’t everyone seem friendly, real and caring? You will be embraced and energized. And what a value! We were fed, housed, taught and entertained royally for under $200 a day. Do a writing friend a favor; bring him/her and split the accommodations cost (keep it gender specific).
Meanwhile, go to the NSNC members’ Facebook and LinkedIn pages, get friendly and follow the highest concentration of brilliant and engaged journalists and writers in a condensed area. You may be a right-brained Luddite such as myself, but it’s not that hard. If I can do it, you can! (I’m still not sold on Twitter.) And you’ll love chatting with Dave Astor, archivist and past NSNC vice president!
You’ll learn how other writers deal with their challenges – professionally and personally. You’ll gain strength. As another first-timer remarked to me, “This conference really kicked my derriere” (or something like that). Writing may not make you rich, but it takes you to a better place. In these trying times, it’s nice to have a journalism family.