As I clutched the steering wheel with sweaty palms, I glanced over at the speed limit sign on the side of the highway and wondered two things. Why don’t they have a separate highway for huge trucks? And why had I agreed to leave my nice, safe house and travel to the Erma Bombeck conference?
I had been excited to attend the Erma conference for the entire four months between the time I bought the ticket and the day it was time to make the big drive to the University of Dayton, Erma’s alma mater. On the actual day I had to leave my cozy warm home, family, dogs and cats, I got a little anxious. Sure, I would get to spend time with writers that I know and love while learning new and fascinating things, but I was also going to HAVE to spend time with people for four days straight. As an introvert, I lose energy from peopling. So, I eased myself into socializing.
My shoulders were knotted throughout my entire NINETY-minute drive along side huge trucks. Yes, people who flew or drove for days, I drove a whole hour and a half to be there. Don’t hate me because I live in the middle of corn fields. As soon as I got to my room at the illustrious Dayton Marriott, I decided there was no way I was going to the awards event at the library that night. I imagined a crowded library full of people I did not know, a standing room only event. Nope. So, instead, I unpacked and hung up my clothes. Then, I ordered room service and ate in silence as nature intended. I was slightly disappointed by the WAY TOO MUCH guac on my turkey burger and the fact that this was a Pepsi establishment (I’m a Diet Coke purist), but overall I enjoyed eating without having to feed animals first or do dishes after. I’m lying. My husband usually does the dishes.
At around 8, I received a Facebook message from one of my favorite writers, Her Royal Thighness. She summoned to the bar as only someone royal can. I had a good couple of hours hanging out with the crew. Then, the little light in my head turned off and I knew I was done with people for the night. I got up and told everyone that I had to go read. Some of them understood what I meant.
I tried my best to appear extroverted throughout the conference. I was super social for me but probably not really social compared to others. I did things to help myself survive the conference and get the most out of it. I had room service four times during the five days I was there, once was during dinner the last night because I wanted to go to the stand-up comedy show later. I knew that I would not be able to do both. I cancelled housekeeping so I could go back to my room as needed and not have people in there cleaning. I sat on aisles during presentations because I hate being smooshed between people. I feel claustrophobic really easily.
I’m glad I was a little on the anti-social side. I avoided the Erma flu. Well, some people caught the flu. Others caught a stomach virus, which is NOT the flu. I don’t know why, but people saying “stomach flu” irritates the piss out of me. At any rate, I’m glad I avoided both of the viruses that were going around. I did so with a combination of not shaking a lot of hands and using hand sanitizer like I was being paid to do so.
I really enjoyed most of the workshops I attended. My favorite by far was “How to Uncover Your Voice and Get It Down on Paper.” The speakers, Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff, taught us how to set a kitchen timer and just write without editing or judging ourselves. As a writing professor, I have known about free writing for years, but I had never really allowed myself the pleasure. During the last five minutes of the workshop, someone told me that Kathy Kinney was Mimi on the Drew Carey Show. I had not realized that. I just thought that she and Cindy were awesome workshop leaders. I immediately followed them on Facebook and liked their page Queen of Your Own Life.
Kathy wasn’t the only famous person at the conference. A lot of people were taking pictures with Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess, Alan Zweibel (one of the original SNL writers), author Amy Ephron, and writer, actor, and producer Cathryn Michon. Honestly, I’m just not a fan girl. I didn’t get pictures or autographs. I haven’t been star struck since I met Michael J. Fox when I was 19. They are just people with cool jobs. They eat, sleep, and crap like the rest of us. I was impressed with knowledge they were willing to share with us, not the fact that they had been on TV.
The Erma conference is the best writer’s conference I have been to. I am looking forward to the next one in 2018. I know that I will probably have a mini panic attack while I am driving there along side semis, just like I did this year. I know I will bathe in hand sanitizer and fight the urge to wear a surgical mask. My husband suggested that I should buy a bunch of hand sanitizer, don fairy wings and a tiara, and just go as the hand sanitizer fairy. I think I might do it. So, if you are at Erma in 2018, look for the short, chubby, awkward girl with fairy wings and claim your free bottle of hand sanitizer. It could keep you from catching the plague.