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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Out of the Comfort Zone, Into the Conference (AKA, Deliverance 3)

With apologies (and explanation) to my patient readers, to whom I haven't written since January 1, I offer the following:

The Conference

“This is gonna make a great blog article,” I told my friend Mary by way of apology, after keeping her waiting for the second time the morning we were both set to pitch manuscripts to agents at The Philadelphia Writing Workshop. The first offense was when I took too long in the shower and found her patiently playing with her phone as I combed the tangles out of my hair. The second infraction was when I couldn't locate my car in the motel parking garage (panic button notwithstanding) and had to beg the attendant to help me cruise the lot to find my misplaced vehicle. After a harrowing 20 minutes, I emerged from the depths to find Mary had given up waiting at our designated meeting spot and enlisted a motel attendant to help locate her MIA friend.

Mary and I had taken a room together the night before to avoid doing the last-minute rush thing into the city. A darn good idea, too, as I had more than a little agita just getting into Rittenhouse Square Friday night. I’m not a city girl – never have been – and after my thrill-laced adventure into town, I’m convinced, never will be. Combining two and a half hours of rush hour traffic, pedestrian peccadillos, detours, and GPS systems that disregard one-way streets, let's just say the trip was torturous. 

But I'm starting at the end. In the words of Good Witch Glinda, “It’s always best to begin at the beginning,” so, without further ado…

The Idea

Mary Dolan Flaherty emailed me a “Rah Rah, Let’s Write!” article several months ago, after the two of us had engaged in a complaint fest about the pitfalls most writers encounter while honing their craft. At the bottom of the piece was a link to the aforementioned conference, which we both decided to attend. Hence, the room and giggle sharing Friday night.

Alas, if I thought writing had roadblocks, I quickly determined that preparing for a conference to pitch one’s writing signals the starting gun for the mother of all roadblocks.

The Washer

Taking it chronologically, the delays started with the breakdown of my washing machine shortly after New Years. My son beckoned me urgently one evening after starting up said machine, explaining the thing had harrumphed, danced a few inches across the basement floor, then unceremoniously shut off. This necessitated several calls to the manufacturer to troubleshoot and verify what I already knew – the warranty had expired – but they thought they could fix it. Three hundred plus dollars and a missed day of work later, the deed was done, and Mom’s Laundromat was back in business.


The Computer

Next, my computer started misbehaving. You know the drill – sluggishness, refusal to summon the Internet (I think the newest protocol insists we not capitalize the “i” in that all-important, can’t-live-with-it, can’t-live-without-it technological wonder), etc., etc., etc. Don’t get me wrong: the device was upwards of ten years old, had patiently accepted the keying in of three manuscript overhauls –
in short, didn’t owe me anything. But why now!

Despite my objections, and not a few consults and troubleshooting visits from my long-suffering, computer savvy friend, Eileen, the diagnosis proved fatal, necessitating research, complaining, shopping trips, more complaining, and finally, a brand-spanking-new computer. I bragged proudly to Eileen after successfully transferring all my files from the old machine onto an external hard drive, which took a couple of hours away from my writing endeavors, but all to the good, right? Wrong. Turned out the external drive had gone the way of the old computer, and none of my files was retrievable. Cue Eileen, who made yet another emergency trip to my doorstep, only to deliver the unwelcome news that a second file transfer was in order. I grumbled my way through, but at last witnessed the lights of glory in the form of a usable new computer with usable, stored files. Only problem was a new operating system that demanded I learn its machinations before getting any appreciable work done.

The Water Heater… and the Flu

In the midst of all this frolicking, my water heater decided to malfunction. Delightful, hot showers began to wax frigid in the middle of my second chorus of “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” – all this in the middle of winter. What to do? The plumber – who had already dropped by to tighten a loose radiator valve (I believe “phlange” is the actual term he spouted after taking two minutes to fix a problem that cost me a whole day of work) – declared a new appliance was probably in order.

All was set for February 20, a holiday from school so I wouldn’t have to inconvenience my employer yet again – but the best laid plans… Nobody told my lungs I had an appointment that day, so instead of welcoming the plumber, I greeted a bad case of flu, which landed me in the emergency room secondary to breathing problems. My bed and I became besties that week, during which time tissues and inhalers got up close and personal with my airways.


Oh, and the water heater installation? Rescheduled, of course.

The Festive and the Not So Festive

The month of March arrived and, with it, new resolve on my part to hunker down with writing and conference prep. There were, however, two or twenty items yet on my to-do list, not least, the birthday celebrations of both my sons and newly adopted, “labor-less daughter” Elise – all within a week of each other! Happy diversions, to be sure, bookended between less pleasant plot twists like satisfying Uncle Sam’s yearly demand for tax computation, completing school financial aid forms, and tending to a nuisance insurance claim. ¡Ay caramba!

I persevered, promising myself that productivity lay just around the corner. What I hadn’t figured on, though, was a ramp up of work stress, including but not limited to an after-school assignment that went from 45 minutes one day a week to three hour sessions three days a week.

Can you see, neglected readers, why I haven't blogged since the first of the year?

The Deliverance

Somewhere amidst all these amusements, the story of Gideon leapt to mind. 

Gideon, the unlikely war hero, whom kept God waiting while he attempted to verify almighty instructions. Gideon, who carried out divine directions under cover of darkness, lest he receive repercussions from flesh and blood, only to find his covert action was anything but. Gideon, who gathered his nerve while enemies gathered around him.

Gideon, who subjected Omnipotence to terrestrial tests. Gideon, whose army God whittled down to 300 trembling men, to whom He assigned the unenviable task of opposing the mighty Midianites and their Amalekite allies.

Gideon, whose woefully inadequate army God likened to a banal loaf of bread. Gideon, who carried off the bluff of the century with trumpets and torches, resulting in the overthrow of aforementioned enemies.

Gideon, whose victory with ragtag resources gave this author hope of success despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

The Outcome

Turned out many of the setbacks I experienced over this past season were actually gifts. Waiting for repairmen and for illness to subside afforded huge blocks of largely uninterrupted time. Time to tweak my manuscript and assemble materials for agent review (never mind that none of said materials ended up being examined by said agents). In addition, I found I work better under pressure than I once thought, managing to pack three months of preparation into three weekends. 

The surprise ending? I didn't hate the process! Rather, I found myself enjoying my characters and story arc, reveling in newfound enthusiasm in the midst of a third rewrite! 

The best part? Two of the three agents I pitched requested a book synopsis and sample chapters! 

Deliverance. Seemed Easter was a fitting day to expound on that theme.

[Jesus] said, "The things which are impossible with men 
are possible with God!" Luke 18:27

For more like this, check out: Reflections by Thea: Deliverance

Reflections by Thea: Deliverance Part 2, AKA, Jurassic Park Revisited


Reflections by Thea: God Rather Than Men


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