I feel like the next time I attend a conference or similar, I should put some sort of warning on my table. Something like, 'Painfully Awkward' or 'May Hug Without Warning.' I definitely hugged some readers and friends, new and old, at this year's Ohioana Book Festival. Thank you for humoring me, strangers.
But, I got to hang and chat with some incredible writers and book enthusiasts, and extol on the virtues of unapologetically messy first drafts while speaking on a panel with some fine fantasy authors. The questions were so smart and I feel like every time I have the chance to participate in something like this, I learn more about the craft of writing, and from just about everybody in the room.
It's strange, to sit on the other side of the table. I still remember attending a book festival and approaching from the aisle, eager to talk about books and writing and dreaming big about the publishing industry. I still do this every time I meet an author, honestly. And whether it's because I'll always be a reader first or because I've got a severe case of impostor syndrome or I'm just irrepressibly awkward, I don't know.
But once, many years ago when I came up to her after hearing her on a panel at Books by the Banks, Laura Bickle asked me about what I was writing and gave me her email address, later introduced me to a bunch of her friends writing in Columbus. And just a few weeks ago, we shared a table and gushed about books and it was the best. I still feel like the same person, still aspiring, always.
There was a young woman who stopped by our table at one point, asking about drafts and writing, and I answered her questions as best as I could. She came back a few minutes later and told me about what she's working on and said people have told her it's been done; she asked me, did I think she should keep writing it?
I said heck yes she should.
I told her, you have to write the story that you want to write. Everything's been done before, but it hasn't been done by you.
I wish now that I'd hugged her, too.