I don’t think I can put into words how much my time at the RWA meant to me. I’m half-laughing and full on crying as I write this.
And we’re not talking pretty crying here, guys.
See, I’ve spent a long time feeling really insecure about my place in the writing world. I didn’t tell anyone in high school that I dreamed of being an author because I was worried that they would discourage me from pursuing it.
In hindsight, I’m glad I kept my mouth shut too. Because plenty of people discouraged me later on and that was tough enough to handle when I knew I was capable of even finishing a story.
I never saw myself as fitting in with the writer-y kids in high school, most of whom were double-dipping in drama club and had no trouble dropping philosophical quotes into every day conversation.
I felt intimidated.
Partly because I wanted to be reading Meg Cabot instead of Mark Twain and Julia Quinn instead of Hemingway.
Only I knew it wasn’t cool to admit it.
And when I reached college, my inadequacy only became more glaringly obvious. I thought it would be a good idea to move into the artsy dorm my freshman year. Not so much.
People hated me.
I mean, not everyone in my hall hated me. But most of them weren’t exactly part of the Marni Bates fan club, if you catch my drift. And when I let it slip that I had just been hired to write my autobiography…it only became worse.
Some people thought I was a pathological liar. Not even kidding.
Even the kids who did believe me, perceived me as a dork. And every time I went to an Open Mic Night it was obvious that the kids writing the classy short stories about street gangs were the ones who deserved the book deal.
Now some of this may have just been in my head.
But a lot of it wasn’t.
Leaving that dorm helped, but by that time I had declared myself an English major and once again I was the only person who read romance. Or at least the only one who admitted to reading it.
In my three and a half years at Lewis & Clark I never met anyone who wanted to write novels that ended in happily ever after.
And trust me, I couldn’t ignore it.
Every time someone saw me reading a “trashy” romance novel, I had to bite my tongue. I had to restrain myself from point out that FABIO IS NOT ON THE FREAKING COVERS ANYMORE! If you are going to judge a genre at least have the decency to KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
Yeah. That was hard to keep bottled inside.
So I felt like the unsophisticated rube of the English department. And landing a four book deal with KensingtonTeen didn’t change that. Not really.
I honestly think the hardest time for me may have been in Australia. I was writing/editing/obsessing over Invisible because I was trying desperately to meet my deadlines.
I remember quite vividly when one of the trip leaders turned to me and snapped, “Is there anything to you besides your writing?”
But what’s wrong with being passionate about my job? What’s wrong with loving something that empowers me to try to make a difference in the world?
Which reminds me, if you are hoping to be mocked, just tell people that you try to create social change by writing (insert genre here). Works like a charm.
If I recounted every time someone told me to start looking for a day job or to get a back-up plan or insinuated that I, personally, was unqualified to be a writer, this blog entry would be excruciatingly long.
But I did my best to ignore the nay-sayers. I squinched my eyes shut and dreamed of going to the Romance Writers of America conference. I imagined not being perceived as weird for geeking out over my favorite authors. I pictured shaking Nora Roberts’ hand, getting Julia Quinn’s signature, and chatting enthusiastically with thousands of other writers and readers alike.
That dream kept my going.
And it came true.
I was finally surrounded by other people who shared my love of a happy ending. Who understood that sweet doesn’t mean sappy. That romance doesn’t mean trashy. That a good book can change or save a life.
And they liked me.
They supported me. They made me feel like what I did was of value.
Which is why I’m still bawling my eyes out right now.
So this is my heartfelt thank you to everyone at the RWA conference. To everyone who greeted me, who tweeted me, and who treated me as a friend and an equal.
I will never be the same.