*** It's a long one. Sorry about that, but it's worth it. I promise.****
For the past year, my husband has worked too much. He's been working too much for a lot longer than that, but for the last year, the number of hours demanded by his job has been insane. We miss him. I miss him. He leaves for work every morning before all the children are even awake, and arrives back home just in time for bedtime prayers. Add in all the hours he works from home, and it just becomes overwhelming. It makes me miss the early days of our marriage when we were young and poor and he came home.
For the year since we moved back to Texas, I've prayed daily for a way to help him. "Let me ease his burden, Lord. Let there be a way that I can help." When there seemed to be no ready answer coming, I simply kept praying and raising the children. I would brainstorm ideas for second career for myself, but I'll be honest, I don't have much in the way of marketable skills......except that I can write.
In the past, I have toyed with the idea of writing a book. I was sure that I could write a novel..or something.....That was the problem. I had no idea what I wanted to do. After a few failed novel attempts, I admitted to myself that fiction is not my strong suit and went back to blogging. I flirted with the idea of writing for the local newspaper, and even talked to the editor. She was looking for a new obituary writer, maybe I could do that. She read my blog and seemed intrigued by the notion of obits with a friendly sense of humor. I gave it a whirl and we both decided that obituaries aren't charming when they have humor. They're just wrong.
Fast forward to last week when the Catholic Writers Conference came to town. I had not planned to attend as I am not a professional writer, and didn't even have a book to sell. I've never even written a book unless we count the children's book no one was interested in buying or the friendly guide for new homeschoolers I've been playing at writing for the past few months. I could think of no reason why I should attend except that it was in my own backyard this year, and I might not have the chance to attend again for a while. I talked to my husband, arranged for Oma to stay with the children, took a deep breath and paid the registration. I was going.
Wednesday at the conference, I wondered what I was doing there. The talks were interesting, but didn't seem to pertain to anything I was doing. I sat through a session on How to Pitch a Book to Publishers, and wondered if I'd ever get a chance to use that information. I went home satisfied with having met a few Catholic writers I had admired from afar, and a few I'd never heard of, but still unsure I really needed to be spending the time, energy, and money we didn't seem to have to be there.
Wednesday evening, as I headed for home, I prayed "God, if this is where I'm supposed to be, can you make it obvious? If writing isn't what you plan for me, can you make that obvious, too? I'm not doing too well with subtle here. I need you to whack me over the head with it."
Thursday began in a rush as I struggled to get out the door in time to miss the worst of the rush hour traffic. I didn't have time to stop and pick up something for lunch on my way there. I knew I had a couple of ones tucked in my wallet, and decided to just grab a quick something from someplace near the convention center.
At lunchtime, I walked over to a few women I knew from online message boards and asked if anyone wanted to go with me for a chicken sandwich. They couldn't, but would I get them something they asked while handing me money and writing down orders. I was disappointed, because I had been looking forward to chatting over lunch during the morning sessions on marketing which didn't pertain to me at all.
"Are you leaving the hall?" a voice behind me asked. "Are you getting out of here?"
"Yeah," I replied. "Wanna come along?" She did.
My lunch companion worked for a Catholic media distributor. She was from Boston, and wicked funny. When she found out I was a homeschooling mom, she professed her fascination and began to pepper me with questions.
"Do you have a book?" she asked me.
"No." I told her. "I've been writing one for beginning homeschoolers, a let-me-hold-your-hand-and-walk-you-through-it kind of book, but it's nowhere near done."
We kept talking about God, faith, family, and the future in the chummy way of instant friends. We returned to the convention center and sat on one of the benches to eat, when a friend of hers sat down to join us.
"This is Rebecca," my friend said. "She's an author. She's writing a book on homeschooling." My heart stopped. Had she called me an author? Had this media person really thought I was a professional? I smiled and corrected her. I wasn't a real writer, just a blogger with a book in the works, but wasn't everyone else?
Her friend seemed just as interested in what I had to say as my new friend had been. She smiled and laughed as we talked and then said unexpectedly, "Do you write like you talk? In the same tone of voice?"
"Yes. " I told her. "I don't know any other way to do it."
"Excellent." She nodded and smiled.
The lunch break ended and we headed back, me to the seminars and them to their booths. It wasn't but 10 minutes later when a hand lightly touched my shoulder and then slid a note into my own. It read "Can you come to my booth -401- when this is over? There's someone I want you to meet." I turned around and saw my friend's friend from lunch. I nodded at her and then turned back to the speaker. I didn't really think that much of it at the time.
When I arrived at her booth an hour later, she grabbed my hand and dragged me across the aisle. "Tom, this is the girl I was telling you about," she said as she pulled me forward.
He smiled at me and said, "So tell me about this book you're writing."
I told him about my idea of a book for newbies. He furrowed his brow and started asking me questions. His final one was "How soon can you have it done?" I thought of the pitifully few chapters which were completed already and said "December at the earliest." He frowned and said he had hoped it would be sooner.
"Send it to me when it's done. I want to see it." He said as he handed me his business card.
The lady from lunch said "Tom, when you publish it, I am very interested in distributing it."
I looked down at their cards. Tom was the CEO of a Catholic publisher and the lunch lady was the head of distribution for a media company.
"Now I really want to see it." He said to me as he turned to walk away.
"Write that book." The lunch lady said to me. "Write it fast. He's really interested."
I keep thinking about the chance encounters and the happenstance. If I had been on time, if I had brought my lunch, if my friends had been able to go for lunch, if she hadn't asked to go eat with me, if we had sat in a different spot, if we had talked about something else.........I wouldn't be scrambling to finish 40,000 words or writing a proposal for the publisher or seeing hope at the end of the tunnel. Because I have two great gifts. I can write and I can talk, and I'm seeing a way that maybe I can use them both.