This weekend was the Atlanta Writer's Conference.
It was my very first first writer's conference, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But it went above and beyond my expectations.
Not just because it was well-organized and easy to navigate. Not just because people were incredibly friendly. And not just because I got to spend two whole days talking about stories and books with other writers, although it was certainly all of those things.
It went above and beyond my expectations because I got to talk with agents in person about what I love. And I finally got to see their love for books, too. I know this is something we share. I know that agents are partners with writers in creating stories worth telling and reading. But I had never met one before. I'd never been able to hear what the industry is really like, the good and the bad, from the people who work in it every single day.
Mostly, I was blown away by the total acceptance I felt as someone who is brand new to being an author. Sure, I have a book published. Sure, I have a degree in Creative Writing. But I've never really put myself out there to be critiqued or receive real direction on where my stories are headed. I've just been Googling and stumbling my way around this whole publishing thing until now.
There was one agent, in particular, with whom I was most impressed (although all of them were friendly, generous, and really knew their shit). From day one, she welcomed me into that stark little board room and made me feel at home among people I'd come to think of as industry elites. She gave me valuable feedback as well as praise and, in the end, she requested to see my entire novel (!!!).
I still have no words for how I felt in that moment. I wanted to take a picture. I wanted to freeze time. But, instead, when our meeting was over and I walked out of the room holding her lovely notes, dazed with elation, I did something else.
I found a long, quiet hallway in the Westin Atlanta Airport Hotel, hid in a dark corner where no one but God could see me, and sobbed like a little baby. I will never forget that moment as long as I live. It was a joy of the purest kind.
And guess what else?!
I was also chosen by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency to receive the award for Best Manuscript Submission! I'm not going to lie: I did a little happy dance in the aisle as I approached the agent table to take my certificate from her.
So, before I go, I just want to say thanks to everyone who encouraged me. To everyone who prayed for me. To everyone who believed in me. All the hard work was worth it. And I couldn't have done it without you guys.