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Our evening tradition of late has been watching The Great British Baking Show (tagline: “Ready, Set, Bake!”) It’s an endlessly fascinating reality-show-with-a-heart. Great characters, funny Brit conventions, and drama, great gobs of sweet drama. Plus odd food we’ve never heard of (that segment on eels? Yikes!)

So then we baked a cake of our own! Me, who doesn’t really bake, and David who never, ever has.  We used his mother’s 4-egg chocolate cake recipe, of course.  And…yum! Good bake, as Mary and Paul would say.

And on that note—something new that makes us so damned proud of ourselves, and slightly giddy—I’m just back from the Mendocino Writer’s conference.

First, a tough decision to forgo the really fabulous Sonoma Writer’s Retreat. But, this year I needed the particular lineup Mendo offered prior to my major foray in November to the week-long Kauai Writer’s Conference and Stanford writing program reunion.  (Next year, back to Ellen Sussman and Elizabeth Stark’s great wisdom, definitely!)

Second, the thought of driving alone to the beautiful but unknown Mendocino coast. Road trips heretofore definitely a David & Gail thing. I did it! Hoorah! I admit I was too trepidatious to stop in the nearly 5 hour trip (what?! Yeah—picture vibrant images of scary films involving women being abducted at a roadside rest stop.) Then, checking into a hotel alone. Schlepping bags and sleeping alone. Eating dinner at a restaurant alone. After 38 years of marriage, 46 years together, 25 years in business partnership, no small feat. It’s like ripping off my arm to swim across the lake.

Not to mention—walking into a conference on my own. Now, this is known to be a low-key kinda thing, chill Cali coast and all that. And people were definitely lovely and warm.

But if I ever needed frank and physical reminder that writing is a solitary act, then navigating the rigors of a 3-day, 12-hour/day packed conference schedule is it. You wouldn’t think so—natural camaraderie forms quickly at these things, we are all writers after all. But actually, I exist within the bubble of my creative world. My project is fueled solely by my own initiative. I get tremendous support from David, and from Simi and Shanda and Megan and Roy and Cathey and Tracy, and especially Marilyn and Amy, my writer friends. I couldn’t do it without them.

But finishing the novel, writing the essay, bringing to life the grand vision for my writing life? That relies on my discipline, my desire. My courage.

Going to Mendocino—taking my first screenwriting class, reading my work in front of 100+ people, hearing my novel first page blind critiqued by an industry panel, yup—terrifying and frigging exhilarating!

I DID IT! And just the small act of driving myself (and not getting abducted) gave strength to wake up the next morning alone, which made me brave enough to introduce myself to Alejandra and Brooke and Doug (without dumping coffee down my shirt), then quiet the nerves buzzing in my ears to meet the legend Nina Sadowsky in class, engage in the intellectual and creative process (and find I had something to contribute), and then say yes! I will! to every single offering on the schedule, even the reading that honestly I can now barely recall I was so so so nervous, and even then, next, raising my hand when the famous agent on the blind critique panel asked, “who wrote this? Are you here?” without knowing if what she would say next was wonderful…or not.

It was wonderful. The panel liked my work. Hallelujah.

I did it.

And now, onto the next and the next and the next. Buoyed, alone, and gloriously part of the larger community.

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