Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Part 8 is Great

Okay, holiday madness is over, so now I can continue with my epic tale. When we last left our heroine, I was discussing how I found out I was a finalist in the paranormal category of the 2008 Chicago North RWA's Fire & Ice contest. I'd already signed up to attend their Spring Fling conference that April, my very first writers' conference. (Shiny!) (I'm also attending the upcoming one in 2010 too.)

When I gave my name to sign in for the conference, I had my first of many "Oh, you're a finalist!" moment of the weekend. Joelle, one of the conference organizers, walked up to the table as I was getting my package of stuff and heard my name, and she smiled at me and said, "Oh, I know that name, you're one of our finalists." My internal monologue was all Dude, i r teh famous!, but I just blushed like an idiot and said thank you. When I looked through the bag o' goodies they gave me, I discovered my name was in the program. After I squeed like a fangirl, I whipped out my cell phone and took pictures of my name in the program and sent it to my mom and my BFF (me = giant dork). But the best part was that my name tag came complete with a lovely blue pastel ribbon with the word FINALIST stamped across it in big gold lettering. There were other ribbons for various things (red for speakers, yellow for volunteers, etc.). Having this ribbon on my tag was kinda like having a target affixed to my cleavage. People would stare at my chest to see what it said--in case it was something important, like it'd reveal that I was actually a fiction editor or a best-selling novelist--and then they'd be all "Oh, you're a finalist! Congratulations! What category?" And I'd be all blushy and have to explain that yes, I am a weirdo in all black, wearing a pentacle, who writes paranormal. (I'll save the paranormal vs. urban fantasy discussion for another post, it's one of those complicated, slightly nerdy discussions like "who would win in a fight, the Enterprise or the Death Star?")

It was an interesting experience. I only knew one other person there, one of my local chapter members, and that was helpful because I had someone to sit with at the meals and we could be overwhelmed together. ;) Mingling with the conference crowd was much like me trying to mingle at my local chapter--I love them dearly, but most of them are moms. A lot of the RWA membership seems to be made up of mothers over the age of 35. Me, I have an apartment, a Polish husband, and a cat, so I don't have any cute "My kid did this" stories yet (though of course I can chime in for "My husband is stupid and did this" stories). Don't get me wrong, I'd love to sign up for the mom gig, but it's just not in the cards at the moment.

Anyway, in addition to the contest, I'd signed up to pitch to an agent. I tried out my spiel on the hippy a few times, and he gave me useful advice like "don't swear" and "stop fidgeting." Like any unpubbed author, I was terrified of pitching, even though I knew she was a perfectly nice person. I paced. My heart was racing. And that was before I actually got into the room for the appointment. When I went in and sat down, I introduced myself and went through my spiel, reading off my notecards like a total nervous, stuttering n00b. Ugh. But then she said she wanted to see the first 50 pages of the story, and asked if I had any questions. If I'd been in my right mind, yes, I would have, but instead I only managed to chat with her a bit. And then I fled like a scared little bunny. (We'll discuss the outcome of the submission in Chapter 9: In Which I am Rejected!)

At the end of the conference was the big shiny gala dinner, which the hippy got to attend with me. By this point I'd convinced myself that there was no way I'd won the contest (like an Academy Award nominee, I kept silently repeating "It's an honor just to be nominated"), so I picked a seat that was literally in the corner of the ballroom. I realized that they weren't announcing the contest winners until after dinner, after the thank you speech, and after the speech by the charity the auction was benefitting. So I suffer through dinner, unable to eat because for the love of all that is holy, I just want to know what the contest results are! DAMMIT! And then a speaker. And another speaker. Then finally, the moment of truth! Dun dun dun! They start reading off the winners by category, and then by place they finished in (which surprised me, I was expecting just the winner). Joelle starts reading the paranormal category... third place ... is not me! Second place ... is also not me! At which point I did the gay inhale (fans of Kathy Griffin are familiar with this), combined with the shocked Home Alone face, realized that OMGWTF I just won first place! And because I'd picked a chair in the corner of the room, I had to walk all the way to the front of the room. In a daze. Shocked. Hands shaking. Grinning like an idiot. Because I WON!

It was rather awesome.

Next post I discuss how all that awesome got sucked out of me by my first rejection letter...

No comments: