A Night to Remember

A perfect evening resonates. It's the kind of night that keeps calling me back to revisit in my mind, turning over each detail, relishing the remembering of the moment.

That's the kind of evening that I had on Thursday, April 10th during the TLA (Texas Librarians Association) Conference in San Antonio. In addition to fangirling over authors and attending informative, inspiring sessions, I was invited to a dinner sponsored by Harper Collins with three well-known YA authors.  I got the invite from my district's esteemed Director of Library Services, and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity because it was a night to remember.

Twelve women attended this dinner: Rae Carson, Melissa Kantor, and Sophie Jordan were the authors, along with their editors, some members of the HC marketing team, and some other lucky librarians like myself. We ate at Fig Tree in a private dining room overlooking the River Walk. Linen cloths, fresh flowers, place cards, and stacks of books (for the authors to sign) adorned the long table. We had our own personal waiter who brought out salmon puffs on a silver tray and made sure our wine glasses were never empty, which could have made the night not-so-memorable, but I was on my best behavior. I ate a $40 steak and ginger-glazed Brussels sprouts that tasted like candy (how is that EVEN possible?). Full disclosure: I think Salt Grass Steak House constitutes fine dining, so I am not accustomed to this level of elegance. (But I could get use to it.)

It wasn't the chance at a free fancy dinner that made this night so memorable; it was the experience with the people and the inspiration it provided me. We were twelve strangers (mostly) who sat down to a meal, who all seemed to live very different lives. There were the writers, who are all successful with their own web sites and agents--signs that they have made it to the writing BIG TIME; the high-powered HC editors and marketing team, who live in Brooklyn and ride the subway into Manhattan each day; and the school librarians, who probably, like me, drive their minivans down a Texas highway to school. What in the world could we all have in common? What would we talk about for three hours?

Books. Motherhood. Teaching. Riding the subway. Mini skirts made out of t-shirts. Our angsty teenage years. Marriage proposals. Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights. The fancy new grocery store in my town (Yes, I admit I talked about the new Forney Kroger. I have no shame).  The writing process.

It turns out we had much more in common than we thought. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was the magical Brussels sprouts (did I mention that they tasted like CANDY?!). Maybe it was the fact that we all make a living out of loving words. All I know is that there was never an awkward lull in the conversation. All I know is that I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. All I know is that we all hugged at the end of the evening like we were the best of friends, like we were Carrie and company on Sex and the City after a stellar brunch.

But as this amazing night came to an end, I feeling of panic crept over me. I had not gotten the BIG advice that I was hoping to walk away with: HOW DO I GET PUBLISHED? I wanted to slip the question into the conversation without sounding desperate. Obvious.

We had a moment with each of the authors as they wrote personal messages in our books. I decided to confide in Sophie Jordan. She sat at the other end of the table, so we didn't get much of a chance to chat, but I knew we had a lot in common: She is an Aggie (Class of '98 English major--Gig 'Em!); she was a former high school English teacher; she is a mom; she lives in Texas. As I whispered to her that I was writing a book and really struggling, she grabbed my arm, looked me in the eye and said, "I know it's hard. But you have to write it. Nothing will happen until you write it." After a delightfully inspiring pep talk, she then signed my book "Chase your fate."



I left the restaurant on the verge of tears--my heart overflowing with gratitude for such a wonderful evening. I couldn't sleep--the night's events swirled together to form a fresh resolve--to write the story I was meant to write. And finish what I started. Because I figured out the BIG ADVICE that I was so desperately seeking: Nothing can be published until it is written. 

Since I've been so public about this dream of writing a book, some of my friends ask me what it is about (and I thank you for this!). But the truth of the matter is that I've got so many plates spinning on sticks right now, that I'm not sure which ones will stay in motion and which ones will shatter. This story is changing--taking on a life of its own, like most stories do. But this much I know for sure (lean in close and I'll whisper it to you):

I'm writing about
    a girl
    a boy
    a teacher
   and Texas high school football.

I'm writing about the masks that we wear to hide our true selves. 

I'm writing about 
    fear
    secrets
    lies
    loss.

I'm writing about how beauty can come from pain. 

I'm writing about 
    love
    truth
    bravery
    friendship.

Most of all, I'm writing about words. How they have the power
    to hurt
    to heal
    to enslave
    to emancipate
    to bruise
    to bind.

I'm writing about what happens when the true words--the ones we hide in our hearts--fall out and make us free. 

I'm writing. And I will keep writing until this story is finished.

Who knows what will happen after that? My goal is to complete this marathon that I've started. But if that dream of publication does come true, and I get my own agent and web site and get to attend fancy dinners with my publisher (eeek!!), then I will relish nights like this: When I get to eat a $40 steak and Brussels sprouts that taste like candy and reach out to a struggling, aspiring writer, look her in the eye, and say, "You have to write it. Chase your fate."






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