Lunch at LTUE
Julie Wright and I walked fast as we exited the conference center where the hall was filled with LTUE attendees. We waved at friends as we passed, but kept moving. When the doors closed behind us we looked at each other and giggled like teenage girls ditching school. One of the joys of conferences and symposiums is the fact that there are always large groups of people with which to have lunch or dinner. I like having the chance to visit over food. The disadvantage is that large groups are hard for restaurants to seat and I only really get to visit with the five people seated near me anyway. So this time I took a page out of Mary Robinette Kowal’s book. When she came to visit in Utah, she arranged her schedule so that she could have small group visits with many of her friends. I loved that. Large groups are for laughing. Small groups are for talking, catching up, and really learning how the other people are doing. I wanted to make sure I had some of both as part of this year’s LTUE experience. What I’d really love to do is sit down and visit for an hour with each of my writer friends. That project would take about a week of 8 hour days. Instead a casual facebook conversation resulted in lunch plans with Julie Wright and Jessica Day George. I figured the plan was a good place to start.
My very first year attending CONduit, the annual science fiction and fantasy convention in Salt Lake City, I attended a reading. It was a joint reading by James Dashner and Julie Wright. I stopped by because I’d never been to a reading before. I wanted to see what they were like. I don’t remember what Julie read, but James read from the manuscript that later became The Maze Runner. What I remember most is sitting around a table and talking to everyone. They were all published authors. Jessica was there. She had just sold her first book. I was not published, most of them didn’t know me at all, yet I felt completely welcomed and at home. It was the first time I felt like a professional writer.
After our escape from the conference center, Julie and I met up with Jessica at a nearby Zupas. We did not talk about anything profound. Profound does not quite fit with a crowded soup and sandwich shop. However I was able to catch up with a few details about how their lives are going right now. Of such small conversations are friendships formed.
I had friends in High school. Quite a lot of them, but then we graduated and no longer had shared experiences or proximity to keep the friendships alive. I lost touch with all but one or two. I had friends in college, girls who were my roommates or lived in my building. Then I got married and they moved far away. For awhile Howard and I had friendships with other young married couples, but they moved and somehow I found myself adrift. I did not quite know how to make an acquaintance into a friend. I remember hearing about other women and their Girls’ Night Out events. I wanted to be a person who went out to lunch with friends, but somehow it never occurred to me to arrange these things. I longed for them, but never was willing to risk calling and arranging an event. I look back at my younger self and I wish I could get her to say “Hey, next time you have a Girls Night Out, can I come?” This is exactly how I found my Writer Girls group almost a decade later.
I’m not sure how I learned to be a person who collects friends and arranges for lunches out. I think it was mostly by being around people who knew how. Some of it was demanded of me in the course of learning how to be a business manager for Schlock Mercenary. I do lots of things now which used to terrify me. The doing of terrifying things makes me stronger. Perhaps sometime I will try to identify core thoughts about making and being friends. Maybe I’ll even write up a list. Mostly though it is about arranging to be around each other and listening with sympathy. The women I observed did not have Girls Night Out because they were friends, they were friends because they arranged to have Girls Night Out. I had the causality wrong all those years ago.
I’ve been attending local conventions for six years now. They’ve grown to feel like family reunions as much as professional events. I had my stolen time with Julie and Jessica. It was the result of over a dozen emails as we tried to figure out where in three days there was a block of time long enough that none of us was busy. The effort was worth it. Tomorrow I will take time to step aside and talk with dozens more people. Inevitably I will miss someone with whom I’d dearly love to catch up. Thank goodness for the internet. Social media tools allow me to create a simulated proximity. I will be able to share messages and thoughts electronically. It is not the same as talking in person, but better than nothing.
I need to remember to make efforts outside of conferences to plan for lunches and dinners with other creative people. I always come away happier and with new thoughts to think.
Mirrored from onecobble.com.