Time Nazi

My control issues kicked in this weekend at the children's writers conference I attended in Chapel Hill. For supposedly falling into the category of "creative artist," which brings to mind openness and a free spirit, I find I'm a pretty-regimented human being. A-B-C, everything in a line, one foot in front of the other, no deviations, please.

There were 25 children's writers attending the conference and we each brought pages of our current manuscript to read. The verbal guidelines given to us were that each person would read and then there would be a 5-minute critique by the group. What happened is the person read and there was anywhere from a 10-18 minute critique, depending on interest levels, how much people had to say, and how tired we were at that point.

My thought was that if someone had moderated the time limit with a timer, bell, or even a watch and loud voice, we could have moved quickly (and fairly) through the critiques, with time left over for additional writing exercises.

So when we broke up at night for small group critiques, I asked my group if it would be okay if I timed it so each person received 10 minutes of feedback. And baby, at the end of that 10 minutes I was ON it. "Sorry, time's up, we need to move on. Next person." One woman in my group called me (kindly, I think) the "Mary Lou Retton of stop-watches."

Similarly, when we were dividing up in groups on night two and everyone was hemming and hawing about who should go where, where are you going, how should we split up and on and on, I listened for a few minutes and then broke. I waved my hands in the front of the room and was like, "Okay, this is how we're dividing, and you go here and you go there, and off we all go."

Always making friends, that's me.

Control issues aside, the conference was wonderful from the standpoint of I met 24 outstanding women writers. I was impressed with the skill level of all attendees, and with their openness to share information and their sincere desire in their critiques to really help a writer through whatever challenges they were struggling with.

I'm hoping to attend their larger Fall conference, and maybe even present a brief public speaking workshop.

Anyway, glad to be home. Have a full slate of e-mails to work through, a speech to write, 2 articles to edit, 3 new articles to write, and research to conduct. And that's not including any work on the novels. Seems overwhelming, but during a break in the conference I sat alone on a hill as the sun sank, and stared at the distant hills, and smelled the wisteria, and felt the wind in my hair and thought, "I get to spend each day of my life doing exactly what I want to do. Even if I'm never a "commercial" success, how much more wonderful can life get?"

Sunshine and smiles to all of you reading today.