So hard, but so worth it

It’s Saturday night, and I am fried crispier than I’ve ever been before.

I’m also filled to the brim with joy, with pride, with the creative energy of a group of fascinating, intelligent, and wonderful people who happen to be fucking phenomenal writers.

I can’t wait to go home.

I don’t want to leave.

Okay, yes I do. I’ll miss everyone, but I seriously need a couple of days to decompress, and snuggle with my beloved, and prepare the house for the new kittays (Thursday!), and get back to writing and my massive to do list. Sometimes I can look at my massive to do list and want to run away screaming, but right now so many things on it are fun or exciting. Story deadlines. New projects. Opportunities to challenge myself.

(It may take me several days to just parse my to do list into manageable chunks.)

My view leaving the Anchor Inn on my way to discuss my anthology, Doorways to Enchantment… Which door would you choose?

When Dean Wesley Smith asked me to be an editor at this year’s Anthology Workshop, I blurted “Are you kidding me?!” which in hindsight was so embarrassing because Dean doesn’t joke about stuff like that. I was, as my dear friend (and wonderful writer) Leslie says, “Exfrightened,” which means being excited and frightened in equal measure. I didn’t identify until I was standing up with the other editors that I was also dealing with a level of imposter syndrome. Kris and Dean have been my writing mentors for 15 years (as of this month!) and are award-winning authors and editors. What did little ol’ me know?

I probably spent more time than I should have reading the 1.1 million (yes, you read that right) words of short fiction written by the 50 authors (about 250 short stories). I’d been on the other side of the table for 11 of these workshops, so I was reasonably sure I knew what would be helpful to the authors. It’s not enough to say “This story didn’t work for me” (although occasionally that was true—sometimes you just can’t put your finger on it), and if I were rejecting a story, I wanted to give a thoughtful explanation of why. The fact that I didn’t figure out until the morning of the first day of the workshop part of what I was looking for in the stories for my anthology added a bit more stress…but I learned a lot right there. Quite a few authors thanked me and said they appreciated my comments on their stories, which let me know my efforts were the right thing to do. Yay for that.

I also learned so much from the experience itself—more than one epiphany, more than once a feeling of leveling up in understanding. I didn’t expect that.

My final story selections, with bonus! photobomb by Mark Leslie Lefebvre of Kobo Books (and another editor).

I’ve talked more in the past week than I normally do in two or three months. Remember, I work at home, where I occasionally talk to the cat. Obviously I have conversations with Ken in the evening and on weekends, and see friends as well, but this was eight hours a day, plus lunches each day with a small group of people who signed up to talk to me (cue imposter syndrome, although some people just wanted to hang out, and that was cool), plus a few dinners, plus breakfasts (by the end I was eating breakfast in my room because it had become too much), plus a two-hour Uncollected Anthology meeting today.

Here’s the plan: after breakfast tomorrow, drive to Portland and drop someone off at a hotel near the airport, then go home. Have lunch with Ken if we can peel ourselves off of each other. Unpack, toss laundry in. Maybe do a quick grocery shop (I did a meal plan last month). Take a long, hot, epsom-salt–filled bath. Watch TV or a movie. Sleep a lot. Monday I’ve got a massage scheduled and yoga in the evening; Tuesday I have a scheduled walk with a writer friend (because she’s awesome and I didn’t see enough of her this week) and I’ll get a chiropractic adjustment. (My right shoulder is swollen from lugging my computer bag around and also looking to the right at four of the five other editors.) Wednesday, back to work—unless I feel I need more recovery time. I’ll triage a few time-sensitive things before that, but mostly it’ll be about getting organized so I can hit the ground running. (And prepping for the kittays!)

I’ll probably write as well. Not just because I have deadlines, but because I’ve been missing it. I managed to write only one day this week, between being busy and braindead. (Yesterday I made up a new word: Nebulated, which means to be nominated for a Nebula award. This morning I said to one of my roomies, “I’m sorry, I haven’t had alcohol yet.” Thankfully she was able to translate that I meant caffeine. Egads.)

All that was written Saturday night. Here’s what I wrote Sunday evening:

I’m home, and managed to miss the actual snowfall (the roads were clear and the aftermath was pretty). Bath has been taken, suitcase is unpacked, and the first load of laundry is in. I had a small surge of energy earlier but now I’m wibbling. Any hint of decision making is off the table. Ken’s picking up pizza, and then it’s no brain necessary for the rest of the night.

I’m realizing this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I didn’t know if I could do it. I don’t know if I could have a year ago.

It’s a lot to process. For now, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. I feel like I’ve leveled up, and I have a confidence I didn’t have before. The Year of Dare is going pretty well so far.

Mockup of the cover of my anthology, with me listed as Editor. Eeee! (Design by the extremely talented Allyson Longueira, publisher at WMG Publishing.)

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