Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Back from writers conference, head full of ideas

With my mentor, Theresa Sullivan Barger
Back from my first time at the American Association of Journalists and Authors writers conference in New York, I realize that I'm as bad at unpacking as I am at packing.

It's an extenuating circumstance because my kitchen table is a mess of business cards and papers and my head is brimming with ideas. I went to three sessions and wish I could have been two places at the same time but since I couldn't, I'm ordering a recording. As a freelancer I miss the camaraderie of the newspaper, and being around all these interesting editors and writers had the same feel.

I attended three sessions: "Conference Success Stories: Making Great Connections Here," "Freelance Forever: Keeping Secure and Prosperous Later in Your Career," and "Pitch Slam: Women's Magazines," where writers took turns pitching to the editors of Women's Health, Family Circle and Manifest (and having our ideas critiqued). Everyone is on Twitter and I'm just catching up but I had fun Tweeting my impressions. Like so:

With Randy Dotinga, ASJA president
Advice from at : "Don't lose your sense of wonder."

Ronni Gordon ‏@ronni_gordon May 22 Manhattan, NY 
Told younger person at #ASJA2016 that I was sad I lost my newspaper job & she said be glad you got to do it.

Meanwhile I also did some great networking. Interestingly, the first person I sat next to was a former reporter from the Hartford Courant who credited my former husband with teaching her how to be a business writer. I said that back at the old Transcript-Telegram,  he also taught me how to be a good reporter.  Longtime freelancers had volunteered to be mentors, and she ended up mentoring me and giving me some great advice. Two degrees of separation!

Somehow over informal dinners I ended up in the memoir writing group. I just landed there because I found an extra chair. I said I actually had written a memoir and even had an agent but it didn't go very far. I had thought it was relevant to the stem cell debate and that I had a pretty good story to tell. They asked if I would revisit it and I said no because after reading some memoirs I realized that mine was lacking in the detail that brought others to life. This was because for a lot of the time I was out of it.

I was hanging out at the bar (not drinking but eating an orange that the bartender gave me because the pizza that I had for dinner made me so thirsty) when a woman came over and asked me for my card. She wanted to thank me for asking so many good questions in the sessions because she had been reluctant to do it herself.

I told her that I had been shy growing up and then chose a career that made me extend myself. It's because all I wanted to do was write, and to write the stories I had to ask questions. I also said that my daughter finds it hard to believe I was ever an introvert. I told them that she says, "Now you never stop talking."

Via Twitter I learned that I needed to prepare my "elevator pitch," summarizing what I do. I came up with, "from being at a daily newspaper I would say I'm a generalist but I specialize in arts and health and fitness."

Being so "on" and not sleeping much took its toll at the other end. Between Sunday and yesterday, I had several mini meltdowns where I started to cry over something that happened, and in repeating the story, cried again. Twice. In my mindfulness course at The Cancer Connection, the instructor said that it's good to cry and that pushing our feelings down is not a good thing. Still I would rather have not had it happen.

In addition to the mess of cards and other things, the chi of my kitchen, one of my favorite rooms, has been disrupted by bursts of dive bombing pantry moths. I took everything out of the pantry closet and either put it in the fridge, threw it out, or piled it on the counter. I have done everything that is recommended. An exterminator came over and said I should empty out every cabinet and he would charge me $300 to use a pesticide to get rid of all the eggs that I can't see. Which I'm not going to do. I can't see their eyes but I feel like they are just gloating at me.

One mistake I made was to put the pherome trap on the counter. I have now placed it in the cabinet and closed the door. A friend said that's what his father did and they finally died and stopped reproducing.

I'm going to my second outdoor clinic at the Canoe Club and I'm sure it will at least temporarily wash everything out of my mind. Last week I had a brief talk with one of the other players where we both agreed that there is nothing like it for getting all your anxiety to go away at least for the period while you're there.

Then it's off to Boston and back to every other week instead of every three weeks of ECP, or light therapy on my blood.

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