Shannon Stacey

Retro Shan: April 25-26, 2003

I was so excited the Red Sox went up 3-0 in the first inning I almost dropped my laptop, so I shut it down and curled up with my fleece blanket and my cats to cheer them on. Now it’s 13-1 in the bottom of the sixth and it’s probably safe to let my mind wander for a minute. But only a minute. Any true Red Sox fan doesn’t really look away until Tessie is sung.

But then I remembered I have a bunch of appointments and errands tomorrow, so I probably wouldn’t have time to blog. So here’s a little something I wrote 4 1/2 years ago. It’s a recap of my journey to the New England Chapter’s annual conference in 2003 and it still makes me smile. And it was a big deal for me for three reasons:

1) It was the first time I’d left my family overnight.

2) It was my first conference.

3) It was the first time the Devlin Group was introduced to the world. [Yes, in 2003. I’ve lived with these DG guys a long time.]

It’s kind of long, so it’s after the jump, and comments I added tonight are in blue.

Shannon’s Excellent Adventure

Part I: Just Getting There

Needless to say, in the hours leading up to my departure time, I had managed to convince myself I was the worst mother on the planet, a selfish wife, and a no-talent imposter who had no business being at a writing conference. My husband, bless his soul, reminded me that he had paid for this conference, he wasn’t forfeiting the money, and I was going whether I liked it or not. (He’s very practical). Kisses bu-byes, and I drove away, thankful I’d bought new waterproof mascara (and having not worn mascara in years, the waterproofness was first put to the test when I stuck the wand in my eye).

It was lunchtime, so I swung through McD’s drive-thru and got a #7. I usually get a #4, but a #7 has fewer things to dribble on my shirt. It comes with a soda, but I never pass a Dunkin Donuts, so I also got my large iced coffee. (This is relevant in a minute…) [For some reason they have since changed my regular to a #3]

Now, it’s about a 2 hour drive to Natick, where the conference was. I had simple directions, and I was skirting Boston. No problem, right? Wrong. I’ve never driven south of Manchester alone before and here I was WAY south.

Question: A highway has a fast lane and a slow lane. What are the other two lanes for?

Now….in my nervousness I kept unclenching my fingers from the steering wheel and sipping off my drinks. In two hours I drank a large Coke and a large iced coffee. My system is quite accustomed to caffeine saturation, so that wasn’t a problem. Unfortunately, my bladder seems to be smaller than a large Coke and a large iced coffee. And getting off the highway–not a possibility.

I finally arrive. There’s hotel check-in, then conference check-in, and I was running a hair late because of construction (*shudders at memory*), and I had signed up for the Plot Doctor workshop, then I went straight to the pitching workshop (where I learned I was in no way prepared for pitching). Can we just say my kidneys are still traumatized?

(Oh, and I was informed that the nice man in uniform would gladly take my luggage up to my room for me. Thanks, but I can carry my Harry Potter backpack all by myself)

Part II: Please don’t let me have food on my chin

So…armed with new knowledge on Plot Doctoring, some great advice on pitching, and a map of the hotel that makes no sense no matter which way it’s turned (and a very relieved bladder), it’s dinner time. I meet some of my chapter members in the bar, and we go into dinner together. Looks yummy. We’re sitting and chatting, and I look up, and BAM! Merline Lovelace is sitting across the table from me. I’m very pleased to announce that I managed not to embarrass myself with fainting, fawning, or choking.

At some point, I did lean over and ask Sylvie (my chaptermate–she writes for Intrigue) “Am I even allowed to sit here?”

She laughed and said “You’re so funny.”

I much prefer to be thought a comedienne than an ignorant rookie asking dumb questions, so I let it go at that.

Meeting Merline Lovelace and eating the most decadent chocolate cake EVER has pretty much wiped out my memory of any other dinner stuff. Although the performers–they acted out two hilarious skits–were fabulous.

Two lessons learned from dinner: 1) Romance writers are fabulous and friendly and warm and welcoming. 2) Don’t sit with your back to the stage. It’s hell on the neck.

Part III: You never know who you’ll find in a dimly lit corner

After dinner I had the chance to take my Harry Potter backpack up to my huge, awesome room (it had a coffeemaker–’nuff said) and call home. The family had just gotten home from the restaurant. I can hear the short kid’s feet running around in the background and him yelling “Ma-oom? Ma-oom? Ma-oom?”

(Translation: Mom home? Or…Where the heck is my lady-in-waiting?)

Hubby says everything is going fine. I, of course, know he’s lying and their whole world is falling apart without my presence. He also reminded me about The Attitude Problem.

Now, in the weeks leading up to the conference, he drilled The Attitude Problem problem into my head. I’m very shy (which I blame on my mother) and have some self-esteem issues (which I blame on my mother) and my defense mechanism in any situation where I’m unsure of myself is to put on my Arrogant, Unapproachable Ice Princess mask (which I blame on my mother).

So…I go downstairs and see Holly [Jacobs] and Pat [Patricia McLinn] sitting in the bar (which I’ll call the Lounge since I never saw anybody drink anything but water) and figure this is a good time to shelve the ANIP persona and introduce myself. They are even more wonderful in person than online, btw. Holly had me pull up a chair and join the conversation (it’s an unwritten rule that nobody’s allowed to sit alone at conference)

So, my eyes adjust to the dim lighting, and I can read the nametags. Besides Holly and Pat, I’m sitting with Wanda Ottewell, and Cheryl Kushner and Barbara Keiler. *deeeeep breath* Fortunately, any inclination to faint went away when Pat looked at me and demanded to know my favorite obscure movie. The brain cramp killed the fainting reflex.

It was a fun and relaxed conversation, and I felt right at home. Then I went to my room, watched a CSI rerun instead of working on my pitch, then layed awake, realizing that with the tall kid’s very loud snoring, hubby’s normal snoring, and the short kid’s heavy breathing on the baby monitor, I can hear all three of my guys breathing from my bed [at home]. It was a long, very silent night.

Then came Saturday.

Part…um….IV: Saturday (or Who scheduled breakfast for 7:30?)

Up bright and early. Normally I never wake up to alarm clocks, but I didn’t sleep well, so that first beep gave me a coronary and I was wiiiiiiide awake. Breakfast was delicious and Merline gave a wonderful speech.

I’m supposed to pitch to Gail Chasan at 11:00.

So, I sneak out of Pat’s incredible, incredible, incredible workshop at the right time. Gail’s taxi driver apparently held his Yahoo directions upside down and everything was backed up. I’ll now be pitching after lunch. In the main lobby. At least I only missed a couple minutes of Pat’s workshop.

Lunch: Sitting with Nora [not Roberts] and Sylvie again. And Merline sits down. Didn’t lose its thrill. So, minutes pass and a woman comes in and Merline stands up to talk to her and then invites her to sit at our table. Smile. Hello.

Sylvie leans over. Whispers. “That’s Gail Chasan.”


Next up: The Pitch

Part V: The Pitch, or some semblance of one, anyway

….*deeeeeeeeep breath*………

There were three of us who got bumped to the after-lunch, smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-the-lobby pitch session. The person before me ran over a bit (no timer was our reward for prolonging the pre-pitch nausea, I guess), and I was doing a ‘casual’ walk-by when Holly spotted me. She and Wanda were sitting in the Lounge (drinking water) and she decided I looked nervous.

Now the lounge is elevated a few feet, and separated from the open lobby area by a hallway and a brass rail. So for the next 10-15 minutes I leaned on the rail while Holly and Wanda went out of their way to relax me for my pitch. This consisted of making me laugh so hard I was going to pee my pants despite the lack of Dunkin Donuts within sight of the hotel. (Yeah, you bet I looked) [If you go out the BACK door, it’s right there. Dammit.]

Then it was my turn.

Part VI: The Pitch…really this time

Gail is a wonderful, warm person. She asked me about myself, we chatted a bit about Bombshell and whatnot. Then I babbled incoherently for an unknown number of minutes. [This was for 72 Hours] Fortunately, editors are highly skilled in picking the few relevant bits out of incoherent babble. She gave me her card, but I’m to send it to Susan, cause Gail’s moving to SSE and she’d just hand it off anyway.

Did it! Not well, but did it!

Then I went back up to the bar and finished the glass of water Holly had gotten me before the pitch. Then it was time for the editor/agent panel and then I managed to finally get a MUG of coffee and not those dainty little teacup things. Then the bookfair, where I spent lots and lots and came home with a MASSive TBR pile. Then I had to go. *pout* Had to meet my family in Concord for Boy Scout Glow Bowling.

6 comments to “Retro Shan: April 25-26, 2003”

  1. Michelle
      · October 25th, 2007 at 12:38 am · Link

    I LOVED this story. But what I think is really neat is that my very first conference was earlier this year and who do you think I did my very first pitch to? Wanda Ottewell. She is so nice. :roll: Anyway, probably dumb, but I thought it was kind of cool and relevant. Or not. :shrug: LOL

  2. Melani
      · October 25th, 2007 at 9:19 am · Link

    Okay, how the he-double hockey sticks did I miss this story the first time?

    I think I got hives just thinking about pitching and totally had a OMG that’s me moment at your defense mechanism description. Tho I’m more like a deaf mute alien with wide, darting eyes and poor posture. But you’re right, the writers world is full of wonderful women who make you feel wonderful and at ease. You should do these things more often. And damn, I wish you lived closer!

  3. Shannon
      · October 26th, 2007 at 8:47 pm · Link

    Wanda IS very nice, Michelle. While I was standing there, I really wished I was pitching to her. But Gail Chasan was wicked nice, too. Very patient.

    Mel, this was back in the eHQ days, and I don’t think you did the historical threads. You should come here and we’ll do New England in the spring. :groucho:

  4. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · October 27th, 2007 at 4:06 pm · Link

    Are you going to NEC in 2008? I am, and I sooooo hope you will so I can meet you.

    Um…we haven’t met in person yet, right? :hug:

  5. Shannon
      · October 29th, 2007 at 9:06 am · Link

    I don’t think we have. My only conference history is NECRWA in 2003 and 2004, so probably not. I haven’t really thought about ’08 yet. I’ll have to see how things go in the next couple of months. It might be fun. :nod:

  6. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · October 29th, 2007 at 9:35 am · Link

    Nope, I was at NEC in 2002 and 2005. :rofl:

    Bad timing on my part.

    I hope you do go this year! Not, like, my feelings will influence your decision or anything. :)

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