” I wanted to see if you are able to attend the 9/12 SLO Nightwriters meeting? It promises to be a good one and your input would be invaluable – which I and others would greatly appreciate it if you can make it.”
When I got this email from my publicist, I had no idea what I was getting into. I imagined a meeting, like before, where I’d help critique various pieces of work. But when I arrived and was asked to put my name on a slip of paper, I was confused. Then, Susan explained that the names were going into a can to be pulled out randomly during the meeting for a hot seat session with Jay Asher.
Public speaking has always been my greatest fear so I tried not to let my shy side take control and give me a panic attack as I took my seat among other Central Coast writers. Over the next hour, names were called as I focused on calming my breathing for when my turn came.
“Laurie Woodward,” my publicist, Brian Schwartz announced.
Go for it. I told myself, holding my recently published Artania high as I giddily approached the hot seat.
Jay chuckled as we said hi. As soon as I looked in his kind face, my nerves calmed. I’ve known Jay for years, since well before either of us were published. Long ago we were both attendees looking for agents at various writers’ conferences and other events in California. Long before his Thirteen Reasons Why became a New York Times bestseller and Netflix series. And he has always been good people. Unassuming. Humble. Accepting.
Jay looked over his list of questions and asked, “What sort of a writing schedule do you have?”
I sighed. That was easy to answer. “I get up every day and write for at least an hour. No matter what. That way I get to start the day in my head.”
Then he asked me to describe my book.
And I froze.
“Umm. Artania is where all art is alive….” I stuttered my way through a confused explanation, kicking myself for not remembering my pitch.
I saw the sympathetic faces in the crowd. Feeling sorry for me. And I realized that these people were no threat.
I took a deep breath and imagined speaking to a group of parents or my students. Thought about Artania’s theme.
“I believe that we all have a special part of ourselves,” I said turning to the audience. “Our artistic side. For some, like you, it’s writing. Others it might be painting or dance. But each is absolutely unique. And what I try to do in Artania, is honor that beautiful part of us.”
Like all writers do.
Even when they’re in the hot seat.