Next, Tuesday night, I sojourned to the ever-so-glamorous auditorium of Short Pump's illustrious Deep Run High School. The hassle of trying to park amidst the football demographic was totally forgotten and forgiven when Dominican-American author Julia Alvarez took the stage. She was beautiful, elegant, passionate and truly inspirational. It's too easy to say someone's inspirational these days, but I think Ms. Alvarez took it to a new level. Naturally some Henrico mom is trying to have her book banned...don't get me started...but Julia Alvarez continues to beat the odds. After escaping a dictatorship, immigrating to the US, learning a second language and trying to assimilate in NY and becoming an award winning best selling author she went back to the D.R. and built a library in the mountains, teaching all of the children and adults how to read while promoting organic coffee farming. I cried the whole way home because this is a woman who has never allowed her passion to die or dwindle, even while the odds were stacked against her.
So that was just the start of the week. Thursday through Sunday I immersed myself in the James River Writer's Conference at the Library of Virginia, meeting and schmoozing and hanging with and being intimidated by and forcing myself to try to act natural with any number of NY Times bestselling authors, screenwriters, magazine writers, agents and editors. I even moderated a panel loosely titled "Commercial v. Literary Fiction" with 2 editors from Algonquin, 1 editor from Simon & Schuster and an agent on the big ass stage with a microphone. Don't get me wrong, I love talking to people, I just don't love talking to people in front of a lot of other people while the whole conversation is being recorded. I was nervous as hell, made an egregious gaffe or two, but survived and lived to tell the tale. Just don't ask for details, because I don't remember them at the present moment.
Who knew that David Baldacci was funny? That people actually read the articles in Playboy? That Kate Jacobs practices dialogue by pretending she has 2 Barbies talking to each other? That Adriana Trigiani leaves General Hospital on because she read somewhere that dead people exist on the same wavelength as electricity? That Taylor Antrim could be "painfully attractive" while stringing coherent sentences together? By and large it was a productive, fun, stimulating, thought-provoking, butt-getting-in-gear kinda weekend. I was truly impressed with the masterful coordination and seamless execution of the event as a whole. I even found that I really liked a number of people I didn't think I'd like, and for someone striving to be less judgemental, that's a really good thing. There's truckloads more I could say, but my brain and body and soul and heart and mind and fingers are still digesting a lot of the information that came my way in the last 7 days. Here's to hoping the brilliance I swallowed will also recycle.