I am going to concentrate on getting ready for the conference today. It’s called Tin House and it’s in Portland, Oregon. And although I was born in Ca, I live in Sydney, Australia, and I haven’t been to the Northwest since I was a baby. It’s a big thing. Not just the travel, but also going to my first writers conference. Most of the delegates will be younger, more familiar with conferencing. I’ve never read to an audience before. When INK was launched I had a band play instead of reading from the book. But I’ll be reading from my story next Thursday. It’s real. Today I’ll get all my material together. The eight or ten stories from the workshop I’ve been assigned to. My e-tickets and maps and information on Reed College, where the conference is being held. I’m familiar with the work of many of the instructors there, and I’ll familiarize myself with the rest of them before I go. I’ll clean my office and get everything ready to write about this and other things when I get back.
I’ve never travelled alone. I didn’t backpack or do a student exchange. I met my husband when I was nineteen and have been more or less glued to him ever since. The glue has expanded to include my work now, and the world upon which it is based.
Which is to say that I’m shitting myself. I had to get new glasses. Here they are. I had to buy a conference outfit because I mostly work in my sweats or my pajamas. Do I need to get new pajamas? Will there be somewhere there I can hide when I need to apart from the bathroom? Will I make friends?
But mostly, will I come home bigger and smarter and better than when I left? Will I come home with new work, a new story, a start to my next novel? I don’t need to come back with an agent, because I already have Himself, and I’m thinking now that I’m writing this that I don’t need to come back with anything, really. It’s not a hunt and I don’t want a trophy, a piece of horn or hide to nail up on my wall because that would be the death of something other than myself, and I don’t want that on my hands. Yeah, I think that what I need more than to come back with something is to have left something behind. Shed something. Leave a piece of me there, something I don’t need anymore (but will always be there waiting maybe, growing old and hoary with time and waiting, tempting me) and come back pared down and ready for the fight. Which is to say that whenever you do something big like this you have to be in it not for the trophy, not the badge of honor or dishonor but to prepare for, be okay with, even grateful, for something in yourself to die.