I’ve been trying to write this post for three weeks. I keep starting it then realize that I don’t know what I want to say about it all. Even now, three weeks after I left, it all seems a little overwhelming to me. And just a little bit unreal. Like it was a glittering dream that I simply imagined in my need to be taken seriously as a writer.

A top view of the metal nib of an old fountain pen jetting out a stream of thick red ink on an isolated white backgroundThe thing is, though, there are all these new people in my life, constantly reminding me of the fact that it did indeed happen. It’s like I’ve joined a cult where the ruler is a magnanimous older woman whose mission in life seems to be helping writers become authors and the people all just really want me to be a successful author and are willing to help in any way they can. It is everything I thought it would be and nothing like I expected.

The week proceeded more or less as expected. Lots of reading and learning and critiquing. Interesting lectures. Laughing. Lack of sleep. Awesome writers talking craft.

There were some things I really didn’t expect. I got all weepy on Tuesday because I missed being able to speak Finnish and be understood. I’ve traveled internationally quite a lot and not always with other people. There I was, standing in the staff room more or less begging for a hug. I realized that it was the first time I was traveling without an anchor. Sure, my partner was at home with our dog but that’s not quite the same. There’s always been some form of structure around me while I’ve been traveling that explicitly tied back to Finland. This was my first time traveling as a writer.

That was a recurring theme for the week. I cried when Steven Gould told us that we were all among some of the best writers submitting to New York. I’m still trying to learn the lesson Steven Brust tried to hammer into us: “I really enjoy your work.” “Thank you, I really appreciate you saying that.” Taking a compliment in a way that makes it possible for another to be given at a later date.

The worst – and indeed the best – came at the very end. All these amazing authors calling us colleagues. Now I just need to work harder to make sure that I earn that bit of trust.