Thursday, 19 July 2012

Build-up to a Fantastic Conference!

 Today I’m posting the first of a short series of blogs surrounding my attendance at the Rhemalda Publishing ‘Got Stories?’ conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 16th 2012. It was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my life so far, but more of that later.

 When I first learned of the conference from Rhemalda, my immediate thought was – “I have to be there!” My second thought was – “Can I afford to be there?” After all, it’s a long way from the UK to Utah, and it would incur a certain amount of expense. My third thought, however, (and this was the clincher) was – “Can I afford not to be there?” The answer to this turned out to be a resounding “No!” so the decision was made.

Much of my strong desire to attend the conference stemmed from a slight feeling of disconnect from Rhemalda and my fellow authors. I felt such a long way away from everything, being in the UK. This was silly, really, because the US is such a huge country and many of my fellow authors hadn’t had the opportunity to meet face to face with Rhett and Emmaline either. This conference would give those of us who could make it a wonderful chance to put actual people to the Facebook profiles, email messages, and grainy, intermittent Skype images that was all we’d had to work with so far. I knew I would forever regret it (and be extremely jealous of those who did attend!) if I didn’t manage to go.

After a conversation with my lovely husband Dave, who often travelled to the States on business in the past but rarely does so now, we agreed on a schedule for our visit. We have several sets of friends in the US, and as it would be silly not to include as many of them on this trip as we could, we decided to fly out the Sunday before the conference and spend a few days relaxing. It wasn’t easy as we had to organize our flights, hire cars, dates and times around when our friends could be free, but we finally achieved the juggling act. We settled on flying from London Heathrow (our nearest airport) into Houston, where we would stay with our first set of friends. Dave has often described Houston to me but I had never been there, so I was looking forward to seeing the place and where he used to work.

I am not a big fan of flying because I often suffer from motion-sickness. If I get it bad, it can affect me for two or three days, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to enjoy our visits. But as we had decided to make the most of this US trip, and had booked some holiday after the conference as well as before it, we had also decided to fly out in more comfort than usual. Yes, we were going Business Class!!

The plane was a Boeing 777, and the Business Class end was even more comfortable than I had anticipated. I’ve never yet been able to sleep on a plane and the allure of fully-reclining seats was a strong one. I felt I was being cocooned in a little individual pod of comfort and once I settled myself in, I actually began to feel excited about being on a plane. Big change for me!

The 9 hour flight went extremely well. There was hardly any turbulence (which is usually what sets off my motion-sickness), the seat was ridiculously comfortable, the food and service were excellent, and the personal entertainment center had more TV shows, movies, music shows, and games than even a ten-year-old child could exhaust. Plus I had my Kindle, and had recently started reading Karen Amanda Hooper’s Tangled Tides. What more could I wish for?

We landed in hot and humid Houston (it was around 99°, whereas the UK had been about 16° and drizzly!) at around 1.30 pm. That’s 7 pm UK time. We collected our hire car, a black Ford Escape with thankfully efficient air-con, and drove to the district of Houston where our first set of friends lived.

We had already decided to try staying awake until 9 or 10 pm, so we could acclimatize as quickly as possible. Our friends helped enormously by providing us with a fabulous supper in their garden, although I only survived the temperature by sitting right next to, and sometimes actually inside, the spray from their garden sprinkler, and we retired to our very comfortable guest room feeling no more than slightly wearier than usual. I slept well although I did have minor anxieties, because I’d asked our friends if next day they would listen to and comment on the talk I intended to give at the conference: Fantasy World Building. I knew they’d be gentle with me, but I was still dreading how it might go.

Find out how it went in my next post. J 


  1. I am left being the jealous one. Thank you so much for giving me a glimpse into what I missed. Can't wait for the next installment! :)

    1. Thanks for the comment, Candace, hope you enjoy the rest of the series. I really hope we can both make maybe the next Rhemalda conference - I would love to meet you in person! :-)