by Molly Jo Realy @MollyJoRealy

Note: This post is about four times longer than my usual. I hope you’ll read through it. I almost quit writing this week. Almost. Here’s how I didn’t.

First: Why did I almost quit writing? Simple answer: Life. Complicated answer: Life is complicated. I’m in my element at Blue Ridge. Extroverting on coffee on steroids. Learning. Sharing. Laughing. Writing. But this year there were many outside factors drawing my attentions and I had a hard time focusing on being in the moment. I am thrilled ecstatic exhaling and ready to get back to it. Thanks to my peeps who take me as I am and didn’t push, but always pulled, me back into being me. All one hundred billion mosaic pieces of me.

Writing conferences are ahh-mazing experiences. #truestory. From the moment I back out of the driveway to the moment my head hits my own pillow a week later, every nanosecond in between is filled with . . . with . . . [*lifting eyes in thought*] . . . Well, it’s kinda hard to explain. But I’ll try:

When I first realized I was a mystery writer, it was like being diagnosed after a mystery illness. I could tell people what I did, but even I didn’t fully understand it. It was a glimmer of something I didn’t quite grasp. All I knew was there was something in me that no one could explain. A way of seeing things others didn’t. My brain would twist and turn when everyone else took the straight paths. And then I met Victoria Zackheim and Ann Perry at my writers’ club. After listening to them talk about their books, I realized that’s me, too. I’m a mystery writer. I’m not sure they ever knew how influential that day was.

Frankly, My Dear . . . : Writing Isn't a Disease. It's a Diagnosis

Frankly, My Dear . . . : Writing Isn’t a Disease. It’s a Diagnosis

Once I knew who I was, the light bulbs went on. The a-ha moment hit. I could breathe instead of holding my breath. And the best part is, there’s so many others who are

Understanding the genre I write has been vital to not just my story, but to me as a writer, and as a person.

Flash-forward about four years, and I’m still doing the writing thing. Still working on NOLA. Still thrilled with mystery, suspense, and well, thrilled with thrillers. [Of late, I’m enamored with the Patrick Bowers series by Steven James, and the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke.] Still going to Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

Frankly, My Dear . . . : That One Time I Recovered From my Writers Conference (With Scooby Snacks and a Wheelchair)

Frankly, My Dear . . . : That One Time I Recovered From my Writers Conference (With Scooby Snacks and a Wheelchair)

Four and a half days of heavenly extreme-extroverting. Froggie photos. Turning acquaintances into friends (thanks, Bob!) and turning friends into family (Edie, DiAnn, JB, exactly-like-her-Heather, and so many more.) Going to classes that focus on whatever I want to focus on: media, marketing, proposal writing, no-rules writing, diving deeper into character. It’s all there.

This year was admittedly harder for me, literally and figuratively. It’s all public knowledge now, but with my history of car accidents (#nevermyfault) and a kitchen-mop-turned-wrong-type-of-dance-move incident a few months ago, my knee now has this thing the doc likes to call “chronic injury”.

Imagine the beautiful, sloping hills of the Ridgecrest campus in North Carolina. All 1,300 acres of it. Yeah. I knew a while ago there was no way This Girl could navigate without help. Quick call to the airlines. “Sure, you can bring crutches on the plane. And would you like mobility assistance as well?” Happy Injured Girl say whaaat?! Turns out, if you have, like me, been assaulted and tormented by moving metal and your knee (or any other supportive part of your body) decides it doesn’t want to cooperate on a regular basis, and walking from Terminal A to Terminal D is more than you can handle (thank you, American Airlines!), you can get a wheelchair and attendant from entrance to exit! So that’s what we did.

Park the car. Take the shuttle. Sit in the chair. Transfer to plane. Boom. #thatwaseasy. Well, for me anyway. The peeps I was with all week had their share of “Will you carry this for me?” and “Please get the Fresca from the fridge in my room.” and “I will beat you with this crutch if you say one more thing about my immobility.” Oops. Scratch that last one. Never happened, okay? Not admitting to anything.

Thing is, a few times [read: at least once a day] my knee would give out. My arms were tired from the crutches. My wrist was sore from the crutches.

I was freaking tired of the crutches.

But I needed them. Until I needed more. And Kirk did his little minion dance and said, “Molly Jo, it would make me very happy if I could push you around in the wheelchair.” Well, who am I to deny Kirk some happiness? I mean, isn’t that what we’re here on earth for– to make others happy? So of course I get in the chair. Go here. Go there. Park in the corner. Ugh! Extreme-Extrovert going through interaction withdrawals!

And I see in the distance, Mary Denman (y’all remember Mary, she did some photography posts last year) raise her camera and snap a shot.

Frankly, My Dear . . . : Book Signings and Froggie Photos

Frankly, My Dear . . . : Book Signings and Froggie Photos

Not sure if y’all can tell by the look on my face, but I wasn’t really having a good time. I was stuck, lower than eye-level, immobile and unable to take part in some of the fun. But then Mary saw me. And she took this photo and put it online and it did something to me. It made me realize even when my body is imperfect, I’m still me. I couldn’t walk very well (sometimes not at all) [and even as I type this, I’m waiting another doctor’s appointment next week], but I could recognize my friends. I could connect with the authors, agents, publishers, editors, and faculty in the room. They were the ones sitting at their tables. And you know what? I was eye-level with every single one of them. From the Ganskys to Bob Hostetler to Steven James (see, Bob, I put you first!) (sorry Steven, he paid me) to Vicki Crumpton to Alycia Morales to ohsomany. And I’m feeling sorry for myself, and in pain, and then I get it.

These are my people. This is my crowd.

And not one of them cared that I was on crutches or in a wheelchair. Schweet.

“But what about the Scooby snacks?” You say. Oh, if only you could see the smile on my face right now.

I never told you about this? Well, sit back, sister. There’s a whole ‘nother story to write. So, last year this whole food fight thing broke out. Wait. Back up. Let me tell you about Lobby Time. That’s when the day’s schedule is over and we have free time. The conference center is set up like a small college with dorms/hotels, and in a few of these buildings like Mountain Laurel (where the cool kids faculty stay), the faculty hangs out in the lobby. It’s our chance, as mere underlings, to meet and greet and accost converse with them about all things writing. So last year, agent Steve Laube [who is never tired of us teasing him about his name sounding like “lobby”. Hulloh, Steve. My last name is Realy. How much sympathy do you think I have for you?!] was regaling many of us with his stories of encounters with, shall we say, interesting people. Paige, Caleb, Pam and I bring our load of junk food down and we’re sitting on the floor like teenagers watching a late night TV movie.

Frankly, My Dear . . . : BRMCWC Lobby Time with Steve Laube

Frankly, My Dear . . . : BRMCWC Lobby Time with Steve Laube

And Steve keeps telling his tales. But I notice he’s looking in our direction. [I begin to wonder if I have powdered donuts on my nose or something.] Then he says something about my eating habits. Whatever, dude. It’s like, college for writers and I’m hungry, okay? So I chuck a packet of Scooby snacks at him. Now, I already told y’all I’m still hungry, right? I figure he’d do the polite thing and give them back.

Nope. Not Steve. He opened the pack and started to eat them. My Scooby snacks. He ate one. And another. All while still telling his stories, and we’re all laughing hysterically, and apparently I offend him [I know! Like I could offend anyone, right?!] because he takes little red Daphne and throws her at me!

So I say, “What did Daphne ever do to you?!” and throw her back. But I miss. So I pick her up and drop her on his head. He retaliates with some potato chips. And then, minutes later, there’s Scooby snacks, and smashed potato chips, and I can’t even remember what else. But it. was. FUN. About five of us got in on it. When I handed him my business card later, he was so tired he misread it. Instead of “Writer. Chef.” he said it was “Writter Chief.” Well, what the heck is a writter chief? “I don’t know! That’s why it puzzled me!”

Being the respectful person that I am, this year when I first saw him I politely acknowledged his old mind busy year and said, “You may not remember me, but I’m pretty sure you’ll remember this.” And I gave him his own box of Scooby snacks. Made even more perfect because I did this in front of others who witnessed last year’s attack. What? Planned? I’m shocked you would recognize suggest such a thing.

That was Monday.

Take a guess how many packs of snacks went flying throughout the week every time we passed each other on campus.

And let’s not forget to mention he stalked me at the airport- THE AIRPORT, PEOPLE! – and even accosted me there. Look, he started it, okay?! All I did was buy some snack food. [wink, wink.]

So, fast forward again to today. I quit writing four days ago. I gave up. Crawled in a hole and died. Resurrected myself just long enough to cry over my loss, then rolled over and died again. Locked up the pens. Turned the journals face down.

I’m not making this up.

Because no matter how much they try to tell you, a writer really is never prepared for the desert valley they return to after the mountain high of a conference.

It. Freaking. HURTS.

Big time. The absence of like-minded people. Walking through the day without crazy peeps at your side understanding when your mentor says things like this:

Frankly, My Dear . . . : Aaron Gansky the Bigfoot Killer.

Frankly, My Dear . . . : Aaron Gansky the Bigfoot Killer.

And what? We’re supposed to go back to, you know, what the rest of you call “regular” life? nothankyouverymuch. Oh the sadness of it all. And, yes. Yes, I admit. Edie had to talk me off the ledge of comparison. She always tell us our writing journeys are our own. Don’t compare ours with anyone else’s. And I get that. I do. But dannnng . . . You know.

So. Life. Complicated. Writing. Compared. Blue Ridge. On the other side of the world.

So yeah. I quit writing.

Until today. Until now. Until a good-night call to Mom turned into a 45-minute “Oh, I forgot to tell you . . .” verbal essay. And since it’s getting time for MailChimp to send this out, I guess I can stop typing now.

The moral of this story is surround yourself with the Good Ones. The peeps who see past what you say. Who remind you what you’re meant to be. The Aarons, Alycias, Paiges, SuperGirls. The leadership teams. The ones who want to know you as a person, not a product. And the ones who understand the importance of a good hug, or a smile, or a Scooby snack.

The ones who not only stand by you no matter what, but who help you to stand when you can’t do it alone.
Bonus: You get to bring them along when you board first.

Frankly, My Dear . . . : That One Time I Recovered From my Writers Conference (With Scooby Snacks and a Wheelchair)

Frankly, My Dear . . . : That One Time I Recovered From my Writers Conference (With Scooby Snacks and a Wheelchair)

With a huge gulp of sweet tea and a hug for almost everyone,
Happy living.
~Molly Jo

And Frankly, My Dear . . . : That’s all she wrote!

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