From this day forward

I've decided, after attending Day 1 of my first writer's conference, that I am finally ready to call myself a writer.

It was a long day of travel, of planning for being away. My 4-yr old son was so excited about sleeping over at Grandma and Grandpa's that he barely even noticed when his sister and I were dropped off at the airport. His Grandma took him home to her house and he was off in his own little world of too many toys from grandparents who love spoiling him.

My little girl was an angel on the 2 hour, 15-minute flight to warmer weather. I thought she might nap on the way but the many distractions on the plane - the mini TV set in the headrest of the seat in front of us, the ipad loaded with several new kiddie apps, and of course the tray table which she was determined not to keep in the upright position during takeoff and landing - not to mention all-you-can-drink apple juice and unlimited animal crackers - made it an adventure of which she did not want to miss a wink. Still, more than one person nodded their approval of her attendance on the flight with a smile and "she's so cute!" or "what a good little traveler!" which of course made me very proud.

My mom and dad picked us up at the airport and we made the two-hour drive to our hotel on the island, stopping halfway to eat dinner and stretch our legs. Baby girl slept on the ride from the airport to the restaurant and from the restaurant to the hotel, so she wanted to play once we checked in. It was after 10:30pm before we all finally got to sleep and it was a broken sleep at that given the fact that she didn't want to sleep in the aerobed Grandma had brought for her and instead wanted to snuggle kick me all night long in her restless sleep brought on by an unfamiliar bed.

By 6:30am this morning when the sun spilled through the crack between the curtains pulled tight in our room, she and I were ready to get up and have some breakfast. I was eager to get a shower and pick out an outfit to wear to the conference, and she was craving some milk so we got up, ready to start our day.

My dad dropped me off this morning at the convention center and I easily checked in and found a seat outside where everyone was gathered enjoying the early sunshine before we had to head inside for the remaining morning hours. I met a young man who was there, seemingly as I was, to drink in as much knowledge as humanly possible in three and a half days. We were there to strengthen what core intelligence of the craft of writing we came with, to be able to tell a better story when we left. Our conversation flowed, and I felt relief in how easy it was to talk with a fellow writer.

The day flew by. I found myself wishing at times I could have recorded what the presenters were sharing, because as hard as I tried, I couldn't always capture the exact words they shared and I knew my notes would never do their intelligence justice. I was out of practice. It's been fifteen years since I've sat in on a collegiate lecture, and this is exactly what it felt like. But luckily, by the last session I saw definite improvement, my pen swiftly dancing across the paper in my notebook, my heart content that I was going to be able to hold onto the nuggets of advice and instruction I was gleaning from these incredible writers.

A writer.

I never really considered myself a writer until this weekend.

Sure, I love to write. But never having studied English or Creative Writing, I'm certainly at a disadvantage, right?

Nevermind that. I'm not going to let that stop me from achieving my dream of sharing my story.

Being here on Sanibel Island, I am surrounded by such remarkable talent. And it's only day 1. My favorite author has yet to speak. I feel so incredibly blessed to have this opportunity to explore and feed my passion by listening and learning from some of the best writers in the country.

I almost feel like a shell, a shell on Sanibel Island. Of the hundreds and thousands, probably billions, of shells that wash up on this sandy shore, each holds a story of their journey. Some are smooth and soft, others jagged and broken. At sunset tonight, we walked the beach and collected shells in my daughter's beach pail. Just as we are bringing home a piece of the island in the form of these gorgeous sand-covered treasures, I will also be bringing home tiny gems of discovery from the writers who are sharing their love of storytelling.

I'm so thankful for this opportunity. I cannot wait to practice what I'm going to learn this weekend and I hope you stick around to see me grow and flourish as a writer. A writer who, like a crab, is just now emerging from her shell.