I was going to throw up.
I was surprised it hadn’t happened already. For over a month I had been working up to it; filled with a mild anxiety that I shoved to the back of my brain, but this morning there was no pushing it down as it churned my stomach and rose to my throat. I was going to vomit on the first day of my Pitch the Novel writing conference. All I could do was bring gum and hope it didn’t hit my shoes or anyone else.
I don’t know what I was thinking signing up for a conference where the sole purpose was to put yourself center stage and sell your novel. My heart flutters just waiting to introduce myself in a group. Yet, in a moment of poor impulse control coupled with new midlife bravado, I hastily pushed send on my application and doomed myself to a month of indigestion and second guessing.
And now, it was here.
My husband had taken the next few days off so that I could attend, and he and the boys were dropping me at the train; the one he usually took to the office. “We’re a family of pitchers,” he said, ever the coach, “Now go get em.” I smiled but still waved goodbye like I was heading off to war.
Walking on shaky, stilted legs to the platform, I felt so out of practice for being a real adult. Yet I fooled everyone by sitting down and staring at my cell phone mindlessly. Monkey see, monkey do. What can I say? Eee Eee Eeee.
Forty-two minutes later, I stepped out of Penn Station and looked around excitedly at the blur of the faceless and the colorful, the purposeful and purposeless. It may only be a short train ride, but I was a long way from the person who used to walk these streets. I muscled up some lost swagger, straightened my sunglasses and only tripped once as I strode to the conference building where around 50 or so others loitered. Taking a deep breath that may as well have been filled with helium, I waited.
After introductions, we were split into three groups and I filed into a room with 16 others. It was central casting for farm girls off the bus in the big city. Still, though our wide-eyed expressions were the same, we were quite the hodgepodge; our ages ranging from 20’s-60’s, our races and backgrounds as diverse as the stories we were telling. We were the women’s fiction/memoir group. Many in the room had traveled a long distance to attend this conference. I felt a little lucky and guilty that I had easily hopped the 8:08 for our 9am start.
Our group leader, author Susan Breen, a kind woman and former success story of the conference, explained that we would each pitch our novel for feedback and critique from the group, then she asked us to turn the chairs in a circle. Ugh. Why did people like that? But of course, I turned my chair and we all faced each other expectantly.
While this was our practice day before meeting with the real editors, putting myself center stage and pitching wasn’t practice for me, it was go time. I sweat in my chair just watching the first person take the hot seat. I guess she did okay. It was hard to concentrate with the light pounding in my head and heart palpitations.
I was up next.
I was going to throw up.