Thursday, 9 August 2012

CD-O ... Conference Day Has Arrived!

The day after our speedboat trip around Lake Travis, we bade a fond farewell to all our lovely friends and drove the 3 hours or so back to Houston in order to catch our flight to Salt Lake City. I felt rested and relaxed, and quite happy that I had done everything I could to prepare for my talk at the ‘Got Stories?’ reading and writing conference. The flight went well, although it was a little bumpy, and the air was clear, so we had a superb view of the mountains as we approached our destination. Dave and I had been to Salt Lake once before, a few years ago, when I accompanied him on a business trip. That time, we had visited Yosemite National Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, The Grand Canyon and Death Valley, also taking in the Hoover Dam and (briefly) Las Vegas. That had been the trip of a lifetime, but I had a feeling this one would be better.

The Jeep Wrangler, and my handsome driver!

On landing, we picked up our hire car, a white Jeep Wrangler. As we drove out of the airport, we were pleased to learn that we remembered the way into the city. It was admittedly pretty close, but it’s still easy to miss your way if you’re not paying attention. I think we must have passed the hotel we stayed in last time as we navigated our way to the Hilton Garden Inn. We checked in, and also checked that they had our additional room reservation for eleven days time, when we would be returning after our Yellowstone visit. All was well, and we settled into our room, where I called Emmaline to let her know we had arrived.
Around half an hour later, Emmaline called to say she and Rhett were in the hotel lobby. I couldn’t get down there quick enough to meet them, I was so excited. As I turned the corner and saw them waiting for me, I got the lovely feeling that I wasn’t meeting them in person for the first time, but instead greeting close, familiar friends. As we hugged, and I introduced them to Dave, I didn’t have time to wonder why this should be. We had only ever spoken by phone or on Skype, and although you can get to know someone a little this way, nothing beats meeting them in person. I had expected some nervousness on my part, some feelings of awkwardness, but nothing could have been farther from the truth. I felt like I had known them for years, and they seemed to feel the same. It was such a lovely surprise.
We spent quite some time discussing my books, the way our future relationship might go, the next day’s conference, and the publishing world in general. Dave was a star and asked all the technical questions I had asked him to. He has run his own business for years and has a much better business brain than I do. I could probably have asked the questions, but I doubt I’d have understood – or remembered! – the answers. Rhett and Emmaline were very happy to discuss Rhemalda Publishing and its goals, and it was all very relaxed. We ended our discussions around 9 pm, by which time Dave and I were starving! So we found ourselves an Italian restaurant and ordered some delicious pasta.
I slept well that night, which surprised me, and woke with a feeling of excitement and readiness. After breakfast, Dave and I took my posters, fliers, bookmarks and business cards, plus the notes and slides for my talk, into the conference room. Rhett and Emmaline were already there, along with their two sons, whom I had met the day before. Aldrich and Darcey helped me decorate my table with my posters and fliers, and Emmaline gave me one of the beautiful displays of flowers she had organized for each table. The room looked lovely!
My table at the conference.
And then my fellow authors began to arrive – I won't list them, you know their names. As I met each one in person, that feeling of having known these lovely people already just kept growing. Yes, we often refer to ourselves as the Rhemalda “family”, and that’s exactly what it felt like. It was exciting to have this feeling strengthened by being able to hug each person and speak face to face. The conference guests also began arriving, and soon it was time to start. Originally, I had been told I would be the third person to speak, but because Rhett decided to speak last, instead of first, my talk moved to second place. Good – less time to be nervous! I sat listening to J.S. Chancellor’s fascinating talk on Character Development, trying not to hear the loud thump of my heart. She took questions when she finished, and after each one my heart raced faster, anticipating my turn. But when it finally came, and Rhett introduced me, my nerves suddenly vanished. I felt like I was speaking to a gathering of friends, and as my slides went through – controlled by my glamorous assistant (Dave!) – and my talk progressed, I found I was enjoying it more and more. I had some great questions afterward, which were fun to answer, and then it was over. I could go and sit in the audience, and listen to the rest of the talks. They were all brilliant, and I was amazed at how well each talk related to the others. Some authors were clearly more used to public speaking than others, but even those who were nervous got their points across and acquitted themselves well. I was so proud to have been a part of it all!

The really fun part was the book signing.
The really fun part was the book signing once all the talks were over. It was a great chance to talk to book fans and aspiring writers alike. I heard and had some fascinating discussions concerning writing, and met some extremely lovely people. And even then the fun wasn’t over, as Rhett and Emmaline took us all, including our partners, out for supper at a sushi restaurant. It was just the best way to wind down and celebrate such a successful conference, and the shrimp-throwing was a hoot! Needless to say, I failed to catch mine, unless you count it hitting me in the eye!!
I think none of us wanted the day to end, but eventually it did. Dave and I took our leave, feeling we had made some lifelong friends. The sadness of having to leave them was only tempered by the anticipation of a vacation in The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. But more of that in my next post.
The 'Got Stories?' Rhemalda Family.
(many thanks to Michelle Davidson Argyle for the photo).

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