Aug 5, 2013

Day 2

Day 1
Day 3




It's 9:09 AM. Meaghan and I are running on 5 and a half hours of sleep and the streaming adrenaline. Kaitlyn is running on chocolate-covered almonds.

I keep looking around for people I know, but the nametags are mostly hanging below the level of the tables. I get an idea for the first line of my blog post and write it on a mostly-blank advertisement in the handout. The conference room is cold and I'm made of nervousness.

But I know the keynote speaker. I've looked up his website three times in the last six months just to read through the beautiful requirements for submitting. So eloquent. So...so fitting of his vision. And I have so many connections I'm buzzing to explore.

Jeff Gerke - Jeff Gerke himself - starts walking by the tables and handing out shiny pamphlets with newsletter information on them. He reaches our table and says in a casual way, "I'm looking for the young author who drew a picture of me on their blog. Did any of you..."

I shake my head, thinking of a pencil portrait or something. Then I see out of the corner of my eye that Meaghan is pointing at me. "Wha -"

"You did it?" Mr. Gerke asks, his eyebrows rising in light brown half-circles.

"No," I say, jerking my head back and forth. I'm jerky when I'm nervous. "She's making fun." I shoulder Meaghan. "Stop it."

Mr. Gerke moves on. I turn to my quietly mischievous friend. "What was that for?" She shrugs, grinning.

Then my hands fly to my mouth. "Wh - um - I think - did he mean my stick figures?"

Kaitlyn shakes her head, vaguely. "I don't...think so."

I see him coming past our table again. "Mr. Gerke!" I call. The clamor of voices buries mine like dirt over a seed. Oh well. Just the thought of yelling over that crowd makes my heart rate spike.

Becky Minor traipses up to the front of the hall in a geometric purple dress. She looks a lot like she does on Facebook. I'm wishing I hadn't eaten so much breakfast, even though I didn't eat much at all. After the opening announcements and her acknowledgement that we're pioneers (I'm a pioneer in a different way - the hermit converted) she gives the mic to Mr. Gerke.

Practically the first thing he asks, after the perfunctory welcome, is for whomever drew the picture of him on their blog to identify themselves.

My right hand comes out from under my leg and creeps up on its own, barely to the level of my face, the cold air buffeting it and making my fingers tremble. My hand wants to be seen, but the muscles of my arm keep it low, hoping it won't be.

Mr. Gerke must have sharp eyes. "You did it?" he says, incredulous, holding his hand out to me.

"Th-the stick figures?"

"Yes! But you said -" He gestures to Meaghan in confusion.

"I forgot!"

People are starting to chuckle. My head whirls, but my breath is coming surprisingly clear, tinged with sharp adrenaline like the sparkle in mineral water.

"Well, she said her mental image of me was in a suit, and -" he looks down at his slacks and his Marcher Lord Press T-shirt, eliciting a real, full-out laugh from the audience. "But you guys should go see it, or we should post it for everyone to see. But later she's going to pass out business cards and everyone's going to be like this." He crouches on the floor in an imitation of the frightened stick figures.

By this time my face is hot and I'm laughing with the audience, harder than I can ever remember, except that time at Thanksgiving dinner when, giddy and full of food, I lay on the floor and laughed so hard I knew I would fail if I tried to get up. The lack of sleep is probably contributing. Not now. Please, don't let me end up on the floor.

I cover my face with my hands and try to compose myself. Fortunately, Mr. Gerke soon moves on into the rest of his speech, with no further mention of the stick figures.

I scribble my way through two more classes, determine to write a flash fiction entry even though I'll most likely have to do it at midnight, which is probably when we'll get back to our dorm. I've never written at midnight and want to try it.

Then, lunch. Kaitlyn drives us back to Provincial House. The topic of the stick figures is unavoidable.

"Your face got so red," Kaitlyn says, stopping at yet another of the unnecessary stop signs.

"It did? Oh, no."

Meaghan turns around, her hair swinging against her chin as the van jolts forward again. "I thought you were going to pass out."

I lean forward, gripping the seat handles. "Seriously?"

"Seriously."

We enter the cafeteria. Kaitlyn and Meaghan head for the table where we ate breakfast, but I hang back, scanning the room. I'm not sure I can do it after this morning. I'm not sure I can do it anyway. But my feet, propelled by the threat of regret and Jill Williamson's limitless wisdom, creep toward Jeff Gerke's table.

The published authors seem to group together. Not through any desire to exclude us, I'm sure, but all the same it's daunting to walk up to Bryan Davis and ask if he minds if I join them. Bryan Davis.

"Sure," he says.

I walk around to the only empty chair at the table. Right across from Mr. Gerke. I shut my eyes briefly. Really, God? It would be so much easier if there weren't any chairs empty or - something! 

I sit down. From Mr. Gerke's smile as he looks up from his conversation, I can see he recognizes me. "So, you going to give me a business card?"

Something takes over from there. To my relief, it's something calm and rational, something that knows the lines I rehearsed much better than most of my brain does. Something that steadies my voice and my hands as I reach for the business cards in my pocket and say "I wanted to ask, you gonna let me make my dream come true?"

I hand it across the table. He takes it and tosses his arms up. "There! Now you've fulfilled your comic!"

The rest of lunch is a blur. I eat flavorless green beans and don't notice. We talk about my book and the conference and middle names. When Kaitlyn leans over the back of my chair and says it's time to go, I realize I've eaten almost nothing but green beans. "I just - have a few more bites," I protest, realizing I probably didn't spend as much time eating as I should have. How could I? I was busy with more important things.

We file out of the lunchroom with a trickle of other late attendees. A wave of warm, humid air envelops me as we walk to the car. Meaghan and Kaitlyn look at me expectantly.

"He has my business card." I clench my fists and grin, so hard my face hurts. "Jeff Gerke has my business card! I am so freakishly excited!"

6 comments:

Sandra said...

Remember E your blog address was on that business card and as obviously seen Jeff Gerke reads your blog. XD
JEFF GERKE READS YOUR BLOG!!!!!!!
I'm seriously rolling on the floor laughing! That is TOO FUNNY!!! What a way to start the conference! :D

Jill Williamson said...

Yay! I'm sorry he embarrassed you. But better to be embarrassed than unknown, yes? LOL Did he give you any feedback on your book?

ElizabethLiberty said...

I was half-embarrassed and half-thrilled. So, not bad. I didn't actually show him any, since I didn't rush to finish it, but I did tell him what you suggested - that I decided not to show him because rushing would compromise the quality, compared it to some other books he'd published, told him it was about to go out to my beta readers, etc. And asked that when I got ready to submit, he remember me.

I think he remembered me through the conference, too. Because when I was in my appointment with Kathy Tyers, he was just finishing up with another girl across the room, and when I looked at him me made a face at me. Made me burst out laughing mid-sentence. xD

Jenny Freitag said...

Honestly, Elizabeth, I still feel the jitters at the thought of meeting other authors. I had hoped that trepidation would diminish with the publication of my book, but it doesn't much. Sorry, I know that's not very encouraging. Perhaps it comes with time. I feel the jitters meeting anybody, and that is probably due to my shyness and sensitivity. But once I get a grasp of the bull's horns, I can usually muddle along. Again, I think it just comes with time and age and experience.

Still, it sounds like you had a stupendous time (minus the green beans), and you now have a fantastic story with which to entertain people!

Sam Graber said...

This is a really good narrative. :) It sounds like a blast. I'll have to do one of these someday.

Bethany said...

Wow. I feel like I'm reading a book! :P Great post. It sounds like you had a lot of fun, and excitement in the conference. You're brave too. I don't know what I would do if I had to ask Bryan Davis if I could sit there lol.