How can I capture the excitement I feel about my first All Write conference?
I arrived in Warsaw, stumbled onto the hotel while trying to find the high school, and decided to check in quickly before heading to the high school for early registration. As I headed down the long hallway, I spied two women ahead of me. I overheard a few words and convinced myself that they were teachers attending the All Write Conference. I glimpsed only the backs of their heads, but was surprised when they stopped at the door just beyond mine. I was pretty sure that one of those women was Elsie (aka LeAnn)! I wanted to run over and ask, "Are you Elsie?" Even though we had never met in person, I know Elsie! She bikes, she loves books and workshops, she travels, she writes frequently about nature, and she illustrates her posts with beautiful photos. I nominated her my first year of slicing as someone who encouraged me on my fledgling writing journey. We were selected by the random number generator to receive prizes of DVDs from Choice Literacy. I had long hoped to meet her and if my prediction was correct, we were neighbors at the hotel.
I dropped my bags and headed off to find the high school. I'm not especially savvy about finding things, so I asked the desk clerk for directions to the high school. I turned left instead of right as I exited the hotel and was hopelessly lost. I wished that I had learned how to use the google maps app on my phone that my son-in-law had installed recently, but decided that now was not the time to explore it. I watched as the minutes ticked away, gave up on finding the high school before dinner, and picked up my printed Google map directions to The Boathouse on Winona Lake. I lingered in the car a few moments trying to muster my courage. I phoned my niece and told her this would be much easier with her by my side (we're workshop buddies, but she's teaching summer school).
My fears melted away as I entered the dining room and listened to the chatter of my blogging friends. I wandered over, introduced myself to Elsie, and mentioned that she was my next-door neighbor at the hotel. I met Elsie's companion from the hotel, Nanc from the blog Two years and finishing strong. She has a bubbly personality that matches her encouraging signature-xoxo. I loved spending time with her on Thursday and was sad that she had to leave after just one day. The next blogger that was on my "must meet list" was Linda of Teacher Dance, an amazing blogger and poet who has a prolific number of comments every week. When I asked how she finds the time to respond to so many of us, she told me that she's read essays for years and that she reads fast and writes fast. I met Betsy of Chalk-A-Bration fame who blogs at Teaching Young Writers. I want to participate in that event sometime this summer. There were many others that I met, and I cherish each conversation.
During dinner I discovered that more than 500 people would be at the conference tomorrow. I wanted to freeze this moment in time so that I could meet all the bloggers who were there that evening. I asked Ruth if there was a way to encourage the group to spend some time mingling after dinner. She responded by asking to introduce ourselves, give our blog name, and mention a bit about our journey as writers. What a gift that was to hear from each person present that evening! This dinner marked the beginning of 63 hours of delight filled with learning, laughter, and lots of stories. The conference was inspiring and the time spent together strengthened our ties as friends. We mentioned many of you who couldn't join us by name, then by blog title, and then by describing how your blog looked. (I think next year we should figure out how to include a photo of our blogs on our name tags.) We took lots of photographs (thank you, Bonnie, for your great camera, skill in photography, and willingness to email photos), shared phone numbers and emails, and cemented the friendships we had begun as slicers sharing stories.
Elsie and Ramona
Here's what I wrote about Elsie back in March, 2012.
"What a challenge – to pick one of my new blogger friends from this incredible world. I relish each comment I receive, but the prize has to go to Elsie, my fellow workshop lover! When I sliced about getting to spend the day with Smokey Daniels, her comment, "I am soooo jealous" made me wish she could join us for the day. She lives in Missouri and I grew up in Oklahoma, so there’s a bit of geographic connection there for me. She noticed some of the craft (word choice) in one of my early posts and makes me want to try harder to slice in a writerly way!
Little did I know then that I would get to meet her in person and share workshop time with her at All Write 2013!
Deb, Christy, Tammy
Ruth, Mary Helen, Elsie, Linda
Presenting the Grand Dames of Commenting - Elsie (LeAnn) and Linda!