The smell of urine overpowered my bathroom, courtesy of a cat litter box in need of changing. The laundry basket sat empty because apparently the new laundry basket was the house. There were a few licks of milk left but no juice, and I had just used the last two eggs to scramble a hasty breakfast for my son who I begged every morning to eat eggs but always chose Honey Nut Cheerios; yet on this morning with the cereal already mid pour into the bowl and 19 minutes to catch a train, he decided maybe he would like some eggs. And toast. Cut diagonally with butter, no crusts.
I don’t even bother with a deep calming breath, who had time for that nonsense? I quickly got to work preparing a nice warm start of the day so that he’d remember his mother kindly after she bolted for the door.
My own snacks had already been neatly packed in my keeping it classy H&M shopping bag alongside a slim folder holding copies of my pitch, backup pitch and sample chapters of my novel. I had been out of bed since 5am, ready for my fourth and final day at the New York Pitch conference.
The conference wasn’t at all what I had expected that first day as I sat in my seat sweating; my laptop at the ready. For some reason I thought we would be writing more, but quickly learned that this wasn’t your typical writing workshop. In fact, it wasn’t a writing workshop at all.
We were there solely to hone and sell our pitch; three paragraphs that encapsulated all the plot and intrigue, the conflict and characters, the style and setting, and also left them panting for more. Just whittle those 100,000 words down to 200. Go.
I had been extremely lucky that right from the beginning my pitch was good, so I didn’t have the extra stress of revising like many others. I gave them so much credit. Editing under deadline is when the pressure gets real, man. But where else would we get the opportunity to meet editors, hear their insights and possibly sell our stories? That was the pitch of the conference and clearly we all bought it.
My group bonded easily, milling about the hallway, compulsively checking the list of names posted outside the door for our five minute turns with an editor; some of us nervous, some shoulder-shrugging calm – a bra-tender and a preacher’s wife, a whirling dervish, a soft-spoken Indian woman and an ingénue. There were the moms and the survivors; such an interesting and eclectic bunch, which I guess could be said for most random people thrown together united by passion and panic.
As different as we all were, these were my people and I was honored to be among them. No matter how stressful, it felt good not to be alone in the struggle.
My house is almost back to order. The litter scooped, the washing machine churning, the fridge filled. I am rallying my three boys for their first day of baseball camp; back to life as I know it, racing around doing everything for everyone.
But as I hastily apply sunblock to each sweet, scowling face, pull water bottles from the fridge and double check their packs before ushering them to the car, my heart twists wistfully for those past four days when I put everyone else’s needs aside and was racing out of the house for me, chasing my own dream.