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Leaving My Comfort Zone

A few months ago, I hopped over the border from introvert to extravert. At least in theory. And I assure you, only temporarily. I clicked on the link to register for the Writer’s Digest Conference in Manhattan and typed in my credit card numbers, even paying extra to meet one on one with agents to pitch my novel. Done. We were married. I was committed to go, now that I gave a large amount of money according to my wallet. Absolutely no turning back.

You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal?” And, I’m sorry to say, “……….” Hear the clichéd crickets chirping? I really don’t know. I just know the words socialize, connect, network, and mingle cause heart palpitations. My mind, body, and soul don’t mingle well with other foreign bodies.

Before this weekend arrived, I did my best to prepare on paper. Had my wonderful editor help me perfect my pitch, my query letter, and edit my first ten pages. I took off from work even though I had used all my vacation days for sick days this year. And I prepared my mind, memorizing the allotted ninety-second pitch for my novel and practiced reciting it to my patient daughter. This was harder than I thought.

Somehow, I needed to explain what my novel Less of Us was about while smiling and sounding a bit intelligent, preferably with my eyes open. Nerves cause my brain to freeze, so I depended on using a cheat sheet, the perfect security blanket, Ivory Snow scented.

So…after all this preparation, on the night before the conference, when I had hoped to go to bed early and wake refreshed, ready to catch a peak train, my stomach rebelled. I was up all night leaning over a plastic bowl and not sure I’d make it to the conference at all. But I did—sleep deprived with dark circles under my eyes and an hour late. I managed to fast walk twenty city blocks through the assortment of smells—smoked pretzels, sausages, pizza, perfume and rotten garbage—without getting sick again.

Returning to Manhattan reminded me of my college days. How did I live here for four years? I feel like a tadpole in an ocean. Or maybe a tadpole egg. You get it. An introvert disappears among the swarm of bodies. Same feeling at the conference. My thoughts: “Why am I here? These people are real artists talking about their books. I want to hide in a corner behind the pages of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I don't want to step out of my comfort zone. I like it there...reading on my fluffy pillow.

I wished I could have borrowed my sister’s friendly, outgoing personality—slip it on like a butter-soft fleece jacket and feel comfortable. Not happening, but I could pray, take a deep breath, and stop listening to that stupid discouraging voice in my head. And, pray some more.

I took my seat, enjoyed the wonderful, knowledgeable speakers, talked with a few people, and even exchanged business cards. Did my extent of the networking thing.

The second day of the conference was my happy ending to the story. I sputtered out my pitch to five literary agents. Three of them were interested in my story and asked me to submit my manuscript to them. Half a toddler step closer to finding an agent and getting my second novel published.

At the cocktail hour, I had a chance to meet the author Dima Ghawi who wrote the book I reviewed on my blog: Breaking Vases. In my review, I mentioned the author was someone I would like to meet. As I introduced myself, she exclaimed: “It’s you!” and hugged me. She handed me her card so we could chat some time. I was honored.

On the way home from the conference, I realized I didn’t need to hide or wear another personality. I was Wonder Woman with God’s help. His presence was all I needed to overcome my own self-doubt and reach for my dreams.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

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