ASU Desert Nights Rising Stars Writer's Conference Experience!

I am well into the conference now and just found the perfect wi-fi spot as an ASU guest user.  I am on lunch break.  I have one hour to eat and attempt to blog about a wonderful evening at the welcome reception at the DNRS Writer's Conference at ASU in Tempe, Arizona!!  What an experience and a class act. 

First let me start out by saying I predicted something earlier in my blog as I anxiously turned the days of the week leading up to the conference over in my head; would I make it?  Would I actually be able to go, freely and without distraction to a 3-day conference where I may at times not be home until after 9 or 10 at night?? Really? 
Well my friends, at 4:07 am on the morning of the first day, our youngest son woke with fever.  My husband took his place as the sacraficial parent to stay home while I trudged off to a full day of work and an evening among writers and readers.  Much to my dismay, as I sat in a contract bid pre-conference, trapped by heat and 40 people firing questions to me about what I expected from the bidders, I began receiving texts my husband was on the way to the hospital with our son. 
Our youngest has ARPKD/CHF and was transplanted 3 years ago today to be exact.  So on the day before his 3 year anniversary of his transplant, he is carted off to the ER with high fever.  This was only after struggling to break the fever into the late morning.  I left the contract meeting asap and headed to the hospital.  Thankfully and as predicted, this was a routine measure due to his transplant and we were aware of that.  He has croup (learned today after recognizing "the bark") but when you have a new kidney, you  must protect it, at every cost including convenience.. the ER visit is not new to us, we were just praying he would not be admitted. 

Whew.. finally later in the day as I left work, boarded the train headed for the ASU campus, I relaxed.  The frustration was now in my dear husband's lap as he waited, and waited and yes, waited for tests, reports, IV fluids and antibiotics just a precaution.  I started to loosen the guilty pull on my internal "mommy hard wiring".  The parent child bond is as tight and as predominate in my core as breathing is natural to most people.  I had to fight this drive to flee and return to my babie's side that was really just being overplayed in my head.  Guilt is an incredible mediator...  What allowed me to let stay on that train headed for ASU were the reinforcing words from my hubby, "Hey, he's fine.. we should be home soon.  Go to the conference.."

I made it..

I walked the campus in the direction I knew Old Main sat and passed the glorious Virginia Piper Writer's Studio on the way.  Its solid bungalow style porch, invites you in to have a seat in the overly stuffed chairs, take a stroll through the rooms with their narrow doorways and enjoy the creaking of floorboards that have welcomed many a writer before. 

I came upon the impressive stair leading to the second floor of Old Main and novelled at the two or three conference participants snapping quick pictures of a mocking bird calling out from a scrawl of dead tree branches.  Half a dozen other attendees seated around the massive fountain just outside, hunched eagerly over their conference materials.  The night could not have been better for an opening reception.  The sun was just setting and the song of the fountain and soft chatter of passerby lended an inspirational mood and after checking in, I broke out the journal. 

Once inside, we were met by friendly staff and faculty who greeted each attendee with a choice to either sit at any of the marked eight-top tables or, "if you would like, you may sit at one particular table with an author of your choice."  How grand!  "Who would you like to sit with?" she asked, clipboard in hand with names and numbers listed in neat rows.  "Well, I am working on non-fiction memoir"  "Well then, you may elect to sit with Gretel Erlich, she is here at table 12"  How convenient.  Among the 22 or so tables, table 12 was to my left. 

This was like a first date.  I even carefully chose my garb.. Dark jeans, low at the waist, my favorite comfortable hiking boots, a t-shirt with a tasteful, pink long sleeve polo, untucked.  A little shabby chick or just mid forties comfortable.. Whatever.. it was better than wearing my police uniform work pants, a black t-shirt and my army style black work boots..

The table and room filled quickly and we soon went around the table with greetings including, "wherefroms and whatareyouworkingons" and besides all working on non-fiction, we were from varying areas.  One all the way from Virginia!!  Wonderful, I was born there.  We all chatted, attempting to hear ourselves and each other over the mix of similar conversation in the room.  So far the first date was going well and I felt remarkably comfortable, open and as usual, very talkative. 

The welcome remarks came from Peter Turchi and set the stage for the atmosphere I anxiously awaited.  Imagine, a room filled to the brim; about 185 in all, women outnumbering men 3/1 and varying age ranges from maybe 25 to 65, all here in various transitions in their craft of writing.  A defying struggle to do what many and most cannot: take a person somewhere they have never been through the magic of words. 

Dinner was served and the wine, yes Wine, flowed.  Gretel, a gritty, down to earth, welcoming soul, put it perfectly when our young server inquired,
"More wine?"
"More wine?  I am writer, of course, more wine!" 
We had a great laugh after that as we chatted the dinner time away with sharing of stories, travels and challenges to get the written word to transcend into reality.  It was wonderful. 

Readings followed dinner.  Lovely.  Each author was introduced by MFA students and represented the school and MFA program well.  And to think I say all this as a University of Arizona graduate!!! Yes, I am a Wildcat, on Sparky territory.............. shhhhhh

The evening ended with handshakes, nods of heads, wine in the blood and motivation in the bones.  Gretel was gracious enough to open her Master's Class to me however I had not pre-registered.  We promised to meet and chat more later. 

I met wonderful people, survived an almost missed opportunity and battled the guilt for wanting to take a moment to go my selfish way.  I took the train home and recalled what I learned and joyfully wrapped my arms around my family, happy to say;

"You know what, for a first date, this was WONDERFUL!!" 
More tomorrow!

Please be kind on my typos, glaring errors or any obvious mistakes in this post.. It is now 12:05 pm.  I am late, have my sandwich next to me, untouched and I am in a hurry!! Don't want to miss too much!!!


Cathy Kozak said...

Though I felt like a voyeur, I enjoyed your first date, albeit vicariously! Wishing I was there...

Laura said...

It sounds so wonderful! I can't wait to hear more!

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I figured things out late in life, like what I wanted to do, getting married (age 30), having kids, (36 and 38) and changing degrees about 3 times. Now as a cop of 19 years and in my mid 40's, I am finally figuring out some things. My first career or dream of becoming a writer is playing more in my head and daily life than ever. I love it. Thus the blog. It is all mine. I also love being a mother. They are all ours. I love my husband and as a cop, wow.. have I seen some things. Street degree. I got it. Let us learn together. I also am on She Writes.