Until I wrote my memoir Rude Awakening I was, both by nature and by nurture, a loner. It was however, during the writing of my book that I began to change and to notice how loneliness was being transformed into aloneness. Alone is different. Alone is better, because while loneliness is distracting, alone is centering.
Then, when the book was done and I was told I would have to market it, I had to change again. I joined Toastmasters and learned how to stand in front of a room full of people and talk about my story. But I still had a lot more to learn.
If you’ve already read my memoir, you know that for me initiating conversations and interacting with others is as foreign as is the man in the moon.
Two years ago when I attended my first Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, I found it a good place to learn about marketing. To that end, the most important thing I learned was that if I wanted people to know about my book, I would have to get a presence on the web – and to that end, this blog was born. But as much as I love writing this blog, it is by necessity, a solitary activity and I was once more in danger of become a loner. At least I was until this year’s conference.
Two years ago when I went to the conference, I went alone. This year I was met by four other women, members of the writing groups I belong to, two of whom I had never met in person before. How was I going to perform? How was I going to interact? I was nervous. I was so scared I stopped for a moment to ask God for help.
No problem, He said, just follow me. And so I did as He led me to my first extended meeting with the others. As I met for lunch with my fellow writers – Helene, Kelly, Doreen and Cathy - I told myself to just listen. But the conversation was so lively and intriguing, I wanted to join in and, as we waited for more than an hour for salads that never arrived, I was blessed with a lot of opportunities to enter the conversation.
Of course, the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference was designed to keep us busy. There were workshops and rap groups, banquets and buffets to attend and in between each, the other women and I would meet to compare notes and to see which, if any, classes we had together. The three-day weekend moved along quickly as I enjoyed myself and the company I kept.
At this year’s conference I learned many things. From Stuart Horwitz, who wrote Book Architecture, I learned how to structure a book and from James Knipp’s Apples to Writers workshop, I learned about the connection between creativity and fun.
But the most important thing I learned this year was that I am part of a community – a community of writers and, while I loved being in that community and would never go back to being a loner, I have to admit there were moments when I secretly longed to return alone to my room upstairs and just sigh.