I Am a Turtle Without a Shell

-To Speak, or Not to Speak-

I am a terribly anti-social introvert, even though I really like conversation. Spending a night at home doing nothing but watching Netflix and wasting my life away is about the best way to end my day that I can imagine.

But while I like being alone, I don’t like being lonely. One of the things I’m most afraid of is feeling alone in a room crowded full of people. You might as well be invisible, or not exist. I tend to like to listen to a conversation as much as I like talking, and sometimes I feel like I’d be rude to try and get a word in when the conversation is flowing so well without me and I’m learning so much by just being silent. But I’m also an oxymoron when it comes to socializing. Sometimes I don’t talk; sometimes I don’t stop.

One day I was in college talking to a classmate on one of the first days where the instructor insisted on everyone getting to know one another. At one point, my classmate stopped me and said, “You talk a lot about yourself.” It struck me dumb. I didn’t even realize. She had kept asking me questions about myself, and I just kept answering them. Nothing had clicked in my mind that “Hey, maybe I should ask something about her, too.” From that point forward, I’ve tried to make an effort to do more than just respond, but to engage. My expectation that someone will pick up on a detail I say and have something to say back to keep a conversation flowing back and forth doesn’t always work. Sometimes I need to just step back and realize I’m rambling and try and steer the conversation back towards the other person purposefully.

-What Could Go Wrong?-

So on 1/9 when I went to the first ever meeting of local writers trying to start a writer’s guild for the area, I was prepared for disaster. Would I be too quiet and unable to voice my campaign for my book? Or would I find myself talking and unable to shut up about me me me? I really didn’t know, but I was learning towards being too scared to talk to a bunch of strangers.  Being alone in a crowded room.

In addition, I was afraid that it wouldn’t be what I wanted it to be. The description of the event made me think that the host was going to be trying to sell small time authors like me a crappy publishing deal with barely existent royalties. I was afraid also that everyone was going to be super stuck up about their success, or in general discouraging to a young urban fantasy writer with a vampire book. And how many people would show up? I wanted a small group so that I could stand out, but also wanted a lot of people in hopes to get a lot of votes for my book. I was concerned that I wouldn’t even be welcome with my Kindle Scout campaign, due to the assumption that I’d be surrounded by traditionally published authors that look down on self-publishing or ebooks.

-Better Than Expected-

I love being proven wrong sometimes. It was a great meeting, and I was really glad I went. There were only 8 of us total, including me, and we all had different types of writing we preferred. The guy that put it all together is into writing high-fantasy, the older gentlemen wrote about veterans in new and old wars. There was a former newspaper/magazine writer and a writer of non-fiction. There was an English instructor (who actually taught me in college! It was nice to see a familiar face) and a couple people just trying to get into writing. Most of the published folks were self-published through CreateSpace or had ebooks, though there were a couple instances of traditional-agent-type publishing. It was a diverse mix, and yet we all got along swimmingly and respected each other’s outlets. I got one nomination for my book on the spot and I’m hopeful the others went home to nominate my novel as well because they all seemed really supportive.

And I’m hoping I came away from it not only with some knowledge on publishing and writing guilds, but maybe some future friends. Three others there appeared around my age and we hung around afterwards and talked about our millennial problems of trying to buy houses in this current market. It’s really great to have friends that write, because for me, talking to a fellow writer makes my mind explode with ideas more than any other time I try to be creative.

-Thinking About the Future-

I don’t really know what the future is for me in the guild, though. I know I’d like to stick around as long as it’s relatively small. I like the one-on-one first-name-basis atmosphere that was there that night. And they talked about having “open mic nights” and oh-ma-gah I’ve always wanted to poetry slam.

But, I also find myself thinking I should stick it out for the long run, no matter how it changes (unless it gets corrupt and unhelpful someday). As an author, I need to show my face, whether it’s to other authors or to my readers. I need to throw away the shell and do my best to get out more. Not only as an author, but as a person, too. And the inner high schooler in me who is annoyed that I applied for every single office for the class (I always lost to the popular kids) also kind of hopes to maybe become someone important, with responsibility, in the guild. Managing a part of an organization would also be sweet on a resume, too, and I love resume building.

But we’ll see. I haven’t even published anything yet, and from what the older gentleman talked about, some writers guilds don’t allow “full membership” to people that self-publish, let alone those that aren’t published at all. Right now, it’s a semi-casual group still trying to figure out its structure and goals so that’s not really an issue at this time. And I’d like to be a part of that for as long as it’s still fun and positive. And I like being able to say I was at the first ever meeting.

-Dana Lockhart

P.S. I love turtles, in case you didn’t know.


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