Emily Parnell —When you are reaching for your dreams, sometimes you have to put your zombie slippers up

05/13/2014 6:12 PM

05/13/2014 6:14 PM

“I feel like we should throw something at them,” the two women, both older than I am, said to each other. They peered four stories down at writers seated around a table. I recognized that one of the women’s daughters was at the table.

“I heard that,” I said. It was after 11 p.m., and I was ready to turn in for the night. I continued on toward my room.

“Hey, Kansas City, you can come in here and party with us,” one of the women said, heading back into her hotel room to refill her glass of wine. She wore big, fluffy slippers that were zombie heads, an eyeball popping from one of them. The other woman, a bit younger than the first, with dark brown hair against pale skin and heavy, grape-colored glasses, also wore wacky slippers — white fluffy white rabbits with sharp teeth.

They pointed to a counter arranged with assorted libations — I spotted a bottle of zin that caught my fancy. And I could tell from the ladies’ footwear that we were meant to be friends.

“OK,” I said. “Let me see if my friends are back.”

Two friends and I had traveled to Oklahoma for a writers conference. One, whose friendship that dates back to high school, the other, a member of our critique group. We’d spent the day in workshops, and the writers were now letting their hair down, meeting in small groups throughout the hotel.

I ended up back in the room with the ladies. My friends were still out and about, mingling with other writers, ranging from wannabes to published authors. My new, monster-footed, acquaintances fell into the published author category. They wrote, not surprisingly, quirky material, including paranormal and medical thrillers.

It’s exciting to rub shoulders with published authors. My writer friends and I work on our manuscripts with emotions ranging from excited eagerness to desperation to complete hopelessness. We derive hope from the lucky ones — those who have made it to the other side of the coin and know what it’s like to feel your bound writing in your hands, to receive a reader review on Amazon and even know the satisfaction of earning money.

The fun-loving ladies told me their tales of success. Carol Shenold, with a nursing background, wrote medical publications. But after a while, she decided to write quirky paranormal stories. Amy Shojai, an animal behavior specialist, had written dozens of books on animal training. She wove what she knew about critters into a unique adult novel format, giving animals a point of view. They asked me about my projects with interest, offering pointers and words of encouragement.

When I finally returned to my room, I felt lighter, motivated, even a bit excited. When we undertake a huge endeavor — for me, writing books — it can be so easy to begin to drown in the statistics stacked against us. But if we spend time with those who have made it farther than we have, we find out we’re not so different than they are. They get dressed just like us every morning — one zombie slipper at a time.

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