Life is dotted with “firsts”. First day of school. First time away from home. First day on a new job. There are other memorable first, such as first crush, first kiss and sexual firsts. But those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. I’m referring to the initial experience in which you walk into a room and know… no one. At all. Couldn’t put a face to a name without a road map and a few minutes to study it would be more than helpful. C’mon, admit it. Those times are scary and a little intimidating. It doesn’t matter how old you are! I’m 45 (you were curious, right?) and I’m a relatively outgoing person. I don’t have a hard time in big groups (though I prefer smaller ones) but I haven’t needed a name tag for anyone to identify me in years. Where I’m from, people know me. I’m not a rock star nor am I running for mayor, but I have friends and people who recognize me on a daily basis at Starbucks, the grocery store or just around town.
When I attended my first Dreamspinner Press workshop this weekend in Portland, I was the new kid in school. Thankfully I’m over worrying about details like “is my lunchbox cool?” or “will everyone think I’m a total geek?”. However I’ll be honest, it was odd for me to go into a situation for the first time in years where not only did I a need a name tag for others to know my name, but I had to look at said tag to remind myself who I am. Lane Hayes. Author. New kid on the block.
Sure, I’ve had two novels published and a third about to be released and I’m very proud of having accomplished that in less than one year. But it’s small potatoes compared to many of the seasoned veterans in attendance at the workshop. MM Romance may be a relatively new genre in the publishing world but some fabulous authors have been working their asses off and have impressive backlogs. I know because I’ve read and loved many of their books. I’m not a fangirl type but it was extremely cool to meet some well-known names in the industry. And it was great to find they are very nice people too.
I also thoroughly enjoyed meeting other “newbies”. If it were the first day of school, these are the kids you’d end up eating lunch with simply because you’re in the same boat. You can only hope they packed Oreos and love to share, right? Luckily, my fellow “new” authors were a lovely group. I truly enjoyed spending time with them all. I have a feeling at future events these will be the “familiar” faces I look for in a crowd. People I think will welcome me warmly and save me a spot at their table. I know I’ll do the same for them.
So what was it like? What did I learn? Any juicy stories?
It was great. I learned a ton. Juicy stories…hmmm. Audiobooks are where it’s at. Oh… that’s not what you’re looking for? Well, here’s what I really came away with this past weekend…
It’s a very good idea to push yourself outside of your comfort zone once in a while. For the first time in twenty or more years, I got on a plane alone where no one familiar was waiting for me on the other side. I met new friends, learned a few things about the business from people with a wealth of experience I admire and I set a new writing goal. Oh yeah, and I went to fantastic drag show at Darcelle’s! 🙂 It was a great experience. Maybe even a necessary one for a writer hoping to find a place in a genre I adore.
Opportunities present themselves in a variety of ways. It’s not necessary to get on a plane to take a step away from the familiar and try something new. It can certainly be done a more local level. Go somewhere by yourself where no one knows you. Be the new kid wearing a name tag that doesn’t mean much to the people who meet you. Sit next to someone you’ve never met and strike up a conversation. Perhaps you’ll make a new friend or perhaps you’ll be disappointed when something or someone wasn’t as you’d hoped. What difference does it matter? You tried something new. On your own. Remind yourself that the biggest and best things come from the places you least expect them. There is infinite beauty and a well of forgotten resource inside each of us. Something that is easily forgotten when we don’t stretch ourselves.