I’m a writer. I say this on my website; I claim the identity for myself because of what I’ve studied, what I’ve accomplished, what I do, and because of how it belongs in my being. But participating in this conference is going to be, I suspect, a different experience entirely.
Listen to me read this piece below:
I’m supposed to be packing. I have an early flight tomorrow to New York, and I have yet to assemble any of the things I’m claiming to bring with me — but the sky is barely bright yet, and the morning birds are telling me I have time.
I’ve spoken a bit about this trip here, but haven’t fully explained what I’ll be doing in New York. I’m attending and speaking at a conference called Out of the Binders: Symposium on Women Writers Today, described as “a symposium to empower women and gender non-conforming writers with tools, connections, and strategies to advance their careers.”
I’m a writer. I say this on my website; I claim the identity for myself because of what I’ve studied, what I’ve accomplished, what I do, and because of how it belongs in my being. But participating in this conference is going to be, I suspect, a different experience entirely. It’s not the same as when I, years ago, went to the biggest conference for writers in the country (AWP), where I was dragged to parties and cried and (ugh) vomited in the lobby of a hotel from drinking too many whiskeys.
At this conference, I’m going to be presenting. And I’m presenting amidst a speaker roster of people such as Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of The New York Times; Anna Holmes, founder of Jezebel; Jenny Lumet, the screenwriter who wrote Rachel Getting Married — I’m dizzy looking at the names.
Because, in a way, I believe in my heart of hearts that this is where I belong. As much as the Imposter Complex (tip of the hat to Tanya Geisler, who knows the Imposter Complex inside and out) whispers in my ear, I know that I belong even though.
I’m going to meet women that I’ve only known through social media — and, of course, through their books and writing. I’m going to see women that I know through graduate school networks. I secretly applied to become a speaker because I thought it might give me a better chance of becoming pals with a certain writer, whose name I shall not divulge here, but whom I hope to charm at the VIP event with my wit and warmth.
Am I terrified? Of course. I’m terrified for a million reasons. I haven’t finished preparing my workshop content. New York gives me panic attacks (literally). The suitcase that I’m planning to bring is allegedly arriving today, but there’s always Mercury Retrograde to consider.
And, of course, I’m afraid that it will turn out that I won’t belong.
But this is, I remind myself, about remembering who I am. I’m currently revising an essay for the new book I’m writing, and will be sending it for a fellowship application next week; the act of working on something that isn’t blog-related, or copy-related, feeds me.
I’m remembering who I am, and I believe that’s one of the most extraordinary things that a person can do in this world.