Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Tale of a First Timer

PLEASE BEGIN VISITING MY NEW BLOG SITE: sarah@sarahdykema.com

A Weekend at Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference: 
Four years ago I began to write. I called it coping. I shared with others my love story through words, woven in through life challenges. Peaking in through a windowpane, I allowed others a glimpse into my “not so normal” life. 

Write more my readers urged. Responding out of encouragement, I did. Never considering the seed God was planting in my heart, a seed that with little water would take root. So I’m here for water. Seeking a well. Eager to draw up what the Lord will provide.

Just a few days ago the journey to the well began. I couldn’t get the faces of all the editors and agent’s that I was about to meet out of my head. What will I say to them? What’s my “pitch? Do I have a pitch? Will they like my pitch? Oh my goodness what am I doing? I contemplate not going. What’s the worse that can happen, they say no? Finding comfort in this reality, I press on.

It was 2:10pm on Thursday, running a good two hours behind schedule (as normal).
Checking the oil level under the hood, I get in the car with grease on my fingers and sweat on my brow. Pulling out, I honk and wave allowing all the neighbors to know, I was on the road!

After a short six-hour drive up Interstate 5, to Santa Cruz, California, I arrive. Dropping off my bags, I make my way to lunch. The conference begins and the passion around me is palpable. Hearing story after story, tale upon tale. People got straight to business. The voices, some deep, some high, are filled with inflection, winning over their audience of their ever-creative masterpiece.

Sitting at lunch I begin the first conversation; a much dreaded dialogue. My heart begins beating out of my chest. I find I am wearing a smile that to a stranger looks genuine, but I know it’s filled with fear and insecurity. What are they going to ask me? What are they going to say? My plate’s filled with salad. I have no appetite.

“This is it God! You brought me here. I’m all yours. I can’t waste your time.” I pray under my breath.

I introduce myself, quickly followed by questions intended to steer away from the obvious. Finding out where people live, marriage status, number of kids. Deflecting at its best.

The young girl next to me takes a bite of her food. Not long to chew at all. She swallows. I see her out of the corner of my eye glancing over at me. I look to the nearest clock, hoping we are almost out of time. Here it comes! I feel it, she’s about to ask me something, and it isn’t about my grease stained fingernails. “So, what are you writing?” (Just like the famous rap song “Whoop There it Is”). The pit in my stomach grows and my palms begin to sweat.

My insecurities rooted in this new passion of mine to write. I can’t help to notice the confidence of everyone in the room. In this moment I feel God’s peace over me. Whispering in my ear, “you love to write, I’ve made you a writer, enjoy what I am blessing you with. Be calm. Be still. I am with you.”

As I sat at that table, immersed in a “writer’s world”, my comfort grew. God brought me to this place, asking me to be a steward of his words and my testimony. So that is what I am here to do. I’m scared. I’m unaware. But I’m ready.

I take my attention off the clock. Look my neighbor straight in the eyes. I answer her question with confidence. Leaving my fear for the enemy to choke on, I choose to honor my God. This could be the beginning of a journey to a calling I never knew I had.

 The day continues and dinner roles around. Plates piled with green beans, roast beef, and a slop of carrot soufflĂ© (whatever that is). Writers eager and nervous to share with the chosen one; the editor or agent of their choice. It was time to pick their brain, or pitch our story. We wait for our invitation to begin.

Everyone’s sat. The agent leads the table with a welcome, encouraging us to enjoy our evening as a family. We make our way around the table for introductions.

Nervous, preparing to “win” her over with my idea, I wait as the writer ahead of me starts us off. Appearing to listen, I find myself murmuring what I have to say under my breath. Wavering between the table talk and my inner voice, I catch wind of a conversation that startles my thoughts. I lean forward, all ears.

“We, as agents, aren’t really looking for memoirs or books that incorporate some degree of trauma/life tragedy, not wanting anything with heavy topics.” WHAT! That’s precisely what I have. That’s what I have been working so hard on. All these women I’ve been interviewing, turning their stories of life by storm into a narrative non-fiction. NOW I find out they aren’t looking for books on these topics! Hoping my face doesn’t display the utter shock through my fake smile. I keep listening.

 In between bites she continues, “I would love to have someone submit something they wrote about a dog.” A DOG! What the heck, who writes about a dog? Aren’t those books for the pet store? For children? Discouraged and frightened by the new reality, I struggle to finish my dinner.

Returning to my room, I can’t stop thinking about what I just heard. Confused. This was just one agent, and they can’t all think this way. Trying to get my thoughts back on track, I struggle. Something she said I was responding to. I didn’t know what. I didn’t know why. All I could do was go to sleep and wait on God.

It was an hour before my alarm sounded. I wake abruptly. Finding myself sitting straight up in bed, blurting the words: I have a dog, I HAVE A DOG!

I have a terrible dog. A dog that eats socks and throws up boxer shorts. A dog, that arrived in my husband and my life, shortly after our wedding day. Expecting to be fostered by us as a potential companion dog. Benefitting from my husband being in a wheelchair, the dog would learn so much. But with a hyperactive personality he quickly became a “companion school drop out”. Good thing since we fell in love, not willing to part. We have spent the last eleven years with this crazy mutt. We’ve walked through life with him by our side. He’s a not so average dog, for a not so normal life.

That’s it! This dog is going to share our story. The story everyone keeps telling me to write.

That day. That dinner. During our family time around the table. God gave me strength to share but more importantly to listen.

There’s no doubt I will be here next year. Because I will have story to share about MY DOG!

-Thank You Mt. Hermon!

*Also, I'm excited to say a publisher WAS in fact interested in my book! Working on that for now, your prayers appreciated. 

Shine ON!