I ended up in a couple of classes that I hadn't intended to take, but which forced me to consider my own "story" in ways that at times made me very uncomfortable. By Saturday afternoon, both Elisa and I were emotionally thrashed. Elisa was so beside herself she actually got up in front of a room full of strangers and sang her address to them. And they all bawled, right along with her. Apparently she lives in a very sad town.
When I speak at blogging conferences and writing events, my presentation is something along the lines of "Letting Your Story Sing: Narrative Arc and the Writer's Voice." Get it? I'm a musician? And I talk about 'voice'? I know! How clever am I??
But without meaning to, I've been almost glib about "how" to tell stories. As though there were one formula. Or one kind of story. Or such a thing as the 'right' way to do something so intimate, so personal.
The thing is, I don't do "heavy" very well, except at Zumba, and really, did you have to bring that up? But this weekend questions started to surface - questions about past relationships and present fears and just what is wrong with people who think it's all right to compare drinking Diet Coke to smoking. Seriously? Can you really not tell the difference? Not even the part where I drink Diet Coke and it doesn't blow in your face or make you cough or trigger your allergies or have any impact on you whatsoever?
Anyway, for all that, I can honestly say I've never been more excited to write. Or to get in front of a room full of people and assure them that it's OK to tell the story they want to tell. My next opportunity is in March, at the SITS conference in San Diego. If you were at their St. George conference, or at CBC in May, and therefore assume that there's no reason to attend another of my classes, let me just say with all sincerity and modesty that folks, you ain't heard nothin' yet.
I've been born again, people. And I intend to testify!
This isn't to say that there weren't moments at the Festival. You know, moments. Where you're having a conversation with someone and it slowly begins to occur to you that one of you is definitely bonkers and you pray like crazy it isn't you.
I'm thinking of one guy in particular, who saw that my name tag said "Blogger" on it and launched a sanctimonious rant about how social media were an obscene waste of time and the ultimate in narcissism. He asked me, "Know how I communicate with my family?"
I want full points for not saying, "By burying yourself in 200 pounds of cat litter, perhaps?"
He said, "On the first Sunday of the month, I write a letter" - I assumed on his computer, although he was boo-hooing the loss of hand written correspondence, too - "and I include pictures and articles that interest me, and then I put it all on a CD and mail it out."
Smug, self-satisfied smirk, aimed at the blog lady.
So I said, "Exactly how is that different from blogging? Besides the part where you ship off a CD, effectively telling everyone that what you think is important but any feedback from them is not. Get over here and let me smack that idiotic mustache off your smarmy little face."
Wait. That just happened in my head. What came out of my mouth was, "Do you hear anything back from the people you send it to?"
And he said, "Well, no. But that's not why I do it."
And I did not say, "Here's a dictionary. Look up 'narcissism'." So, again. Full points for me.
Let me tell you what blogging has done for me and my family in the last two weeks:
- I wouldn't even have BEEN at the festival if it hadn't been for Carol Rice, who is President of the National Storytellers Association. She came to my class at CBC and told me that I needed to become a part of that storytelling world. Well, it took her seven months, but she finally got me up there. And when you read that opening paragraph, the one that says something about 'life changing', does it give you some idea of how much Carol means to me?
- Tauna Egan is an ER nurse in Rexburg, ID, who took charge of my depressed daughter - found her a doctor, called and texted and generally checked up on her, and brought a "Rexburg Survival Kit" full of chocolate and other goodies to her class.
- Annie Valentine sat with me at lunch and said, "Please, please, please let me just be in charge of your son's Salt Lake wedding reception! I'll do all the decorating! I'll arrange for the food to be picked up! I'll get your blogging friends to come and help serve! All you have to do is just show up!" Considering that I live in Las Vegas, can you even begin to imagine what a relief this has been to me?
- At dinner with Jana Parkin, Karen Burton, Debbie Frampton, and Becca Wilhite, I laughed and vented and got some genuine encouragement when I whined that after reading my manuscript I was forced to conclude that brain damaged rodents were better writers than I was. They assured me that I was certainly better at the craft than most brain damaged rodents they knew, which really did a lot for my self-esteem. Jana blew off a fancy reception at an art gallery where they were showing HER ARTWORK, just to come to dinner with us.
- When I left the hotel that night, Elisa said, "Have fun with your famous friends!" And I thought, "Wow. She's right. How cool am I??" And it's not just that dinner crew. Annie is a columnist and is a regular on television. And it's not like Elisa is exactly anonymous. But the most wonderful part about all of it is, it takes me a while to remember those things about them. What they are to me, first and last, is dear friends - women who get me, who accept me and cheer me on, who take a genuine, heart-felt interest in my life and the things that matter most to me. And I know every one of them through blogging.
- So stuff that in your stupid little mustache and blow, you weird little storyteller dude.
And finally, I spent some time with some pretty important women right out of my gene pool. My mom hosted a shower for Karyn, my future daughter-in-law, and my sisters, nieces, one sister in law, my cousin, her daugher, and my aunt all showed up. My Aunt Helen is hysterical. How can you not double up in vital-organ-damaging laughter when a 77-year old woman supplies the word 'ejaculation' for the story her 46-year old niece is too dumb to follow? This is the aunt who traipsed around South America with my mother last May. I'm telling you, I come from awesome stock.
Is it any wonder I came home from the Storytelling conference so pumped up? The stories, the characters - I've got them in spades. And now I have a new vision for how to bring their energy and vitality to the written and spoken word. Isn't that exciting?
I'm telling you, I've got no choice.
I gotta testify, people.