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.
That was another excellent post today. You make it look so easy. Thanks so much for sharing. I really enjoyed reading it very much. Have a wonderful day!
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Hi, Marni! My name is Carrolena. My mom met you at RWA this past week. She told me she had fun talking to you and that you are AWESOME! Also that you reccomended to read your first book Awkward! It sounds very good! can’t wait to read it and all of your up coming books. Finally thank you for signing the book jacket and dedicating it to me. Thanks a lot again!
Marni! I’m sorry for thinking you were a pathological liar… you know that was a very short moment before I realized you were serious, right? ❤ Did you get other people saying that??
PS I am SO proud of you for kicking butt and following your dream. In case you didn’t already know.
Hah! I know at least one other person thought I was a pathological liar. And I find the whole thing really funny now. And in case YOU don’t know this: I am so incredibly grateful that I have you in my life. You are a phenomenal person and a wonderful friend! And I love cheering you on while you pwn at life! 😀
I am really sorry that Platt-West was rough for you, but I am going to be selfish and say that I am so glad that you lived there, because I got to meet you and you are such joy!
Keep on kicking butt girl, I am so proud of you.
In hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing. Parts of life in Platt-West was rough for me, but I *did* get to meet Holly, Grace, Jess, Maggie, and you (and some other truly excellent people)! So now I look at it as a time when I wasn’t at my happiest but I was finally dealing with emotional baggage that I had to handle eventually. Getting to know you also makes it worth it. Congratulations on your wedding! You make an absolutely gorgeous bride and I know that you and Saja will be very happy together!
Keep on being awesome!
I’m so happy for you that you found a writerly home, and a place you feel safe loving what you love. That is so important! This also prompts me to reconsider the biases I carry against some genres, which is A Good Thing. Thanks so much for sharing this. =)
I love this post! It sums up how I felt a lot of the time when I was growing up, and especially when I was in college majoring in English. It felt like all the books had to be deep and sad and thought-provoking. In our writing seminars, the darker the short story, the higher the praise. I did my best to fit in with that, but the writing didn’t make me happy. I often think that if I ever got an MFA, I would look for a program that specialized in genre fiction. In the meantime, the phenomenal acceptance and support of RWA are so wonderful and make up for a lot.