Last weekend I attended the 27th annual Southern California Writers’ Conference (SCWC). It offered three days of writing workshops, publishing panels and author advice. A few weeks earlier attendees had the option of submitting the first fifteen pages of their manuscript for an “advanced read.”
Sometimes in life we have a desire to do something, but our own fear stops us, so we don’t try and we never know what could have been. My fear was about submitting my manuscript, Postcards From Home, to be read and critiqued by a writing goddess. The manuscript recounts my family’s home exchange adventures between April and August 2000 when we exchanged homes with families in England, Ireland, Germany, France and Italy.
Here’s a summary of the book:
Overworked and struggling to raise a shy young daughter and a son on the cusp of puberty, Shelley Miller and her husband find their relationship stressed to the danger point. But a unique plan for a five-month adventure in Europe, trading homes in five countries, may mend this modern American family. Locked in a London loo, accused of vandalism in Germany, threatened by gypsies in Italy, Shelley fears that her quest to reinforce family bonds and find ancestral roots will alienate her family still further– until the quiet miracles start happening.
Postcards From Home has been professionally edited and is now in its sixth draft. Yet in preparation for the submission I still reviewed the pages again and again, looking for blemishes. It was as if I was preparing my child for a date with a celebrity. I was at once excited and nervous. Mostly nervous.
While sitting at my desk scrutinizing Chapter One for the final time, I glanced up and read a favorite quote that hangs on my bulletin board, “Why does the thrill of soaring have to begin with the fear of falling?” ~ Mother Eagle
This quote strengthened me when I began writing my book in 2008. It still gives me strength. And so, I did it. I e-mailed Chapter One.
It was on a sunny Saturday morning at the SCWC I met with the writing goddess who had critiqued my submission. She’s a well-respected San Diego author who has literally written the book on writing. During our ten-minute session she declared her delight with my work. She told me that my writing was fresh and that it included great examples of “show, don’t tell.” She went on to say that based on my first chapter, she thought my manuscript was ready to be submitted to literary agents. I clapped my hand over my mouth in a state of disbelief. I hugged her at the end of our time together.
The awards ceremony for the conference was held on Sunday afternoon. Into the ballroom attendees gathered. The conference executive director announced the names of three winners. He called my name for non-fiction…”Outstanding non-fiction.”
I all but skipped to the front of the room. People were clapping. I turned to face the audience. Mother Eagle’s words filled my head. I was soaring.