Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Friday, August 21, 2009

An SCBWI Episode (part A)

Yeah. Another one.

What? Don't you have ANYTHING else to write a blog post about?

No. You got a problem with that? Nothing happens in my life. Ever. I sit in front of my computer all day and type. I take care of my sweet and nearly-perfect children (Shut up and quit fighting, you guys! I'm trying to write!) who are old enough to pretty much take care of themselves.

And I haven't been alone once all summer long.

Being alone recharges me mentally. Too much socializing shuts down my brain. I NEED alone time.

So when I go somewhere (alone!) I get really excited. Kind of like when you have a new baby and you finally make it Outside! The Door! To the...Grocery Store! And you really want to tell someone, only NO ONE cares. And neither should you. Because what's so exciting about getting in the car and driving to and from the store?

So SCBWI is the kind of thing only writers get excited about, and for me it was kind of an alone marathon. With a thousand other people. Whom I didn't know. There were supposedly fifteen other people from Utah, three of whom I knew, and one of whom I had at least met, and I didn't see any of them for TWO DAYS. Which is good, right? I'm the girl who NEEDS to be alone.

But here's me, thinking about it before the trip: "Don't panic. Just don't panic. Take deep yoga breaths. Relax your jaw. Relax your kneecaps. Let joyfulness infuse your being. Okay, never mind. Yoga can get a little weird. Just don't freak. Forget that you have no sense of direction whatsoever, that numbers and time and your brain act like opposite magnetic poles."

One panic attack in the middle of Costco and another day later, I'm at the airport, an hour and a half early. Just in case.

And I'm feeling slightly more relaxed because I've just learned that two SCBWI Utah women are traveling on my same flight--Pat and Susan. I've never met them, but we've emailed and decided to take a shuttle together to the hotel. Just before I say good-bye to my hubby, he says, "Wow, it's really windy. But I guess planes are too big for that to matter."

Going through security, I remove my shoes, jacket, laptop, and every possible removable from my person and send it through. Except that the security person notices my pockets are bulgy. She says in this scary LOUD security officer voice: "Ma'am, do you have something in your pockets?"

Rats. I feel like I'm stripped practically down to my underwear, but I forgot my chapstick and wallet.

I fish them out.

She pats me down in uncomfortable places. Scowling. Grrrrrrr. Decides my chapstick is not a bomb and lets me through.

"Asleep already, and you're not even on the plane," a male security guard jokes.

Yeah. Just wait 'til I take Dramamine so I don't throw up all over.

I check my flight on the monitor. It's there! I got the right date and time. It's late. 15 minutes. Not too bad. I buy myself a water, find my gate and sit across from a big Swedish-looking guy with a long, blonde ponytail.

I'm pretty early. That's probably why there's almost nobody here except the blonde guy and me. And why nobody is at the check-in desk. I start reading my book, Nancy Farmer's House of the Scorpion. A voice announces that my flight has been further delayed, and the airline apologizes. I'm where I need to be, so I disappear into Scorpion-land for awhile. I look up after awhile and check my watch. Wow. It's fifteen minutes until my flight was supposed to leave. I know it's late, but shouldn't somebody be at the desk by now? Pat and Susan should be here, at the very least. There's not even a plane outside. I check my ticket again. It says I'm in the right place.

Obviously I'm not. The blonde Swede is pretty fidgetty, too. He keeps looking around. Everywhere but at me. Is there something creepy about the way he never looks in my direction, even though we're the only people left? His face somehow doesn't look like it's ever bent itself into anything so friendly as a smile, and I can't bring myself to ask him what he thinks. I walk over to a desk at another gate.

The airline person looks at me like I'm an idiot. "Oh, that flight's at gate 2, not gate 6." Huh. I didn't plan on needing magical far-knowing skills at the airport. I grab my luggage and race a half-mile down to gate 2, where there's a mob of people and half of them are lining up to board. I go to the desk, just to make sure. Yep. It's my flight, and they're boarding in 2 minutes.

I almost missed it.

So, apparently, did the blonde pony-tail dude, who apparently followed me over. He doesn't look at me. He just walks to the front of the line.

A couple of dramamine later, I'm sitting in my seat and ready for take off. Where I stay for the next hour, while the captain waits for the wind to die down. Guess a little wind mattered after all.

We finally arrive in L.A.--yay--and I race down to get my checked bag and don't even get lost. But the luggage doesn't come. For like twenty-five minutes. Grrr. But the shuttle will wait for me, right? Because I reserved it for this flight, and Pat and Susan have to catch it, too, and they should be just as late. I look around, trying to figure out which face looks like a Pat or a Susan. When my suitcase comes at last, I grab it and follow signs to the shuttle. It just left. Sigh. But the shuttle guy will get me another, he promises. An hour later he does. And it's a fetching good thing I'm full of dramamine, because it's the taxi ride from hell. In spite of the way the driver is driving at freakishly high speeds and turning corners like he wants to tip us over, it takes over 2 hours to make a 30-minute drive, because he keeps ripping down roads, stopping, making u-turns, and then driving freakishly fast in the opposite direction, checking his GPS, pulling over, getting out and talking on his cell phone, then doing the whole thing over again. And apparently Pat and Susan aren't passengers, because I'm the only one going to my hotel. All seven of us shuttle-riders are going seven different places, and everyone is paying with credit card, which takes the shuttle 20 minutes each to process, and one of the passengers gets into a forty-minute fight with the driver because she wants to report him to his supervisor and he won't tell her his name. So he swears loudly all the rest of the trip.

He finally gets me to my hotel. And it's not the right one. I explain patiently again the name of my hotel and even show him my reservation papers with the big picture of the thing and the address.

It's one in the morning California time when I walk in the doors at last. And I've gained an hour. But I made it, whew! All by myself. Barely. The weird thing is, I was completely calm. I made friends with a woman on the shuttle. Who was not even Pat. Dramamine is a beautiful thing. Or maybe it was those sea bands I wore, in case the pills didn't work. Or something else altogether.

But this post is way, way too long, so part B will have to follow. Because there's more about Pat and the Swedish dude, and you don't want me to just drop those story threads, do you? Every detail matters, right? Just ask Richard Peck.

Playing High and Dry with Sourdough

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