Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Shot in the Arm

A Brief Intro: This is my revised psycho fan girl post. Hopefully, it'll help retract the restraining order I'm sure Jane Porter gave serious thought to taking out on me.

I talk myself out of good things. Not plans with friends or parties or trips, but things specifically garnered to advance me personally, to do something that won't ostensibly affect anyone but myself, either for good or bad. Nobody does justification for bad decisions better than me, I promise you. It may just be my inherent laziness or the fluctuating depression that never really goes away. But I can do a full treatise any day on why I'm just not able to do X or why I'd be better off not doing Y. Self sabotage at its finest.

I almost did that on Saturday and I'm so glad that my better angels and German stubbornness won the day. I wanted to go to the NJRWA meeting that day particularly because the scheduled speaker was Jane Porter, an author for whose books I've written back cover copy. I also like her books as well (That doesn't always happen; about 30% of the titles I write copy for are easily dismissed and readily forgotten.) But the first of Jane's books that I read - Odd Mom Out - snagged me right away because it was written in the present tense, a form you don't usually find in popular fiction. More women's fiction than straight romance, the story was layered, intriguing, and it resonated as well. The main character is Marta; her mother has advancing Alzheimer's Disease and she changes the entire course of her life to come home and help her father care for her ailing mother. That's a mere fraction of the story, there's also a style-obsessed pre-teen daughter and an alpha mom nemesis, but as my grandmother had Alzheimer's and my mother has been diagnosed with the early symptoms of the disease (though it remains under control, for now), I was particularly able to relate to that aspect of the novel. I know a lot about changing your life for your family, though I've yet to be quite as successful at it as Jane's heroine. Her latest novel follows along with that alpha mom and is appropriately titled Mrs. Perfect. Both books explore issues of identity, self-knowledge and discovery, understanding who you are rather than who you pretend to be, and sticking to your guns under enormous pressure. Good stuff.

So I had purpose in attending the meeting - I wanted to meet Jane. And I wanted to begin my involvement with the organization. But I'll tell you, it still took work to get me up and out that morning. I'm not a shy person; I can walk into an event and have 10 new best friends by the end of it - 20 if we're drinking - but Saturday still took some effort. Shockingly, I was (gasp!) nervous about walking into a room of people I didn't know. I was about to insert myself with women who have been doing this writing thing professionally for years, feeling unbelievably inadequate and overwhelmed while trying to take firm steps to make a very personal dream come true and therefore fighting the instinctive compulsion to quash it. Seriously, my belly was hosting an entire arboretum of butterflies.

But it was great and part of that was Jane. She gave 2 fantastic, one-hour workshops on the alpha male and alpha female, how to characterize them and how to write them. I learned a great deal and had a great time doing it. She also shared several personal notes with generous and revealing candor. I love having a look into how other people tick, particularly those who have achieved something I strive for. I appreciate their work even more for having known them. And it's so comforting in a twisted way to know that even successful, published authors struggle with their craft and work hard at what they do.

I had the opportunity to speak with Jane at various times throughout the day including lunch (someone saved me a seat!) She is just fantastic and I was repeatedly struck by how interesting she is, how warm and enthusiastic, how strong and resilient as a woman, an author, and a survivor. How very keen she is to share ideas and mentor the willing, even if only for the 2 hours allotted to today's workshop. Just a really lovely, talented, genuine lady, the type who'd be awesome to have a beer with and just hang out - despite the fact that she's freaking gorgeous. Plus, she's got fabulous blue jewelry - I was nearly tempted me to do a quick smash and grab - and awesome taste in movies. Any woman who puts clips of Daniel Day Lewis' Last of the Mohicans AND Russell Crowe's Gladiator in her workshop is right up my alley. [Man, am I easy. Show me a crumb (ha!) of affection and I’m yours forever.]

tangent: You could hear the whole room groan and sigh during and after the Mohicans clips. There were two, including the infamous "You stay alive!" scene, all rippling flesh and passion. (Apparently, Jane believes in sending her audience into paroxysms of lust mid-workshop just to see if we're paying attention.) Sometimes women just crack me up.

This was just the shot in the arm I needed. I've already registered for the chapter's conference in October and have signed up for meetings with agents and editors to pitch my books during that conference, though I have absolutely no clue what the hell I'm doing. I did this mainly to set a tangible goal for myself, to motivate my lazy ass towards a deadline that must be met or plagues will rain down on me and there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, which is never pretty. Saturday's experience helps reinforce that decision and just makes me feel a little less like I'm wallowing in freakish misery.

At least for now.

P.S. Check out Jane at www.janeporter.com. She's definitely worth a gander.

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