A quick conference update. I did get handed some business cards, but didn't bring any to give in return, which feels a bit like showing up to a white-elephant gift exchange without bringing a gift. I went business card-less despite my last blog post. I thought about just randomly handing out whichever business cards I could fish out of my purse (yes, I'm also a photographeryes, I write and make handcrafted leather goods), but I actually wanted them, so I just said thanks and stood there awkwardly, not returning the gesture. I'm a business card failure. Next year I'll have them. Next year for sure.

EquilibriumBut seriously.

On Friday night, I won second place for "Equilibrium" in the light verse poetry category, and while I was gleefully uploading a picture of my certificate to Facebook, my name was called again. This time I won first place  for "Laetoli, Tanzania" in the narrative lyrical poetry category and was asked to read my poem to my fellow conference-goers, but several things were going on at once:
    Laetoli, Tanzania
  1. I was so cold that my teeth were literally (note the proper use of literally) chattering
  2. I was in the middle of uploading a picture to Facebook to brag about my second-place accomplishment
  3. I was so shocked to hear my name called again that I was startledlike when you step off a curb in your dream and jerk yourself awake
  4. I leaped out of my chair and power-walked to the podium to make up for the fact that I was Facebooking during the awards banquet and had just mentally stepped off a curb

Reading Laetoli, TanzaniaAnyone who knows me, knows that fear of public speaking is not in my list of phobiasfear of tight places, yes. Fear of accidentally driving off a cliff, yes. Fear of water (don't judge me), yes. But by the time I got to the podium, I was more winded than I get after P90x's Plyometrics DVD. I should have taken a moment to compose myself, but I was on crazy-person I-just-won-first-place-in-front-of-my-son (yay) autopilot. I wheezed "Laetoli, Tanzania" out to the large group of people, hoping my emotional out-of-breathness enhanced the poem.

On Saturday, to top off an already great weekend, I won first place in the genre manuscript category for "Firedamp" but was not asked to read my first five chapters to the conference-goers, which sucked for me because I had brought an extra jacket (teeth weren't chattering) and was not uploading anything to anywhere (paying attention). Anyway, there were some potty words in my manuscript that some members of the conference would have found shocking.

FiredampOverall, the conference was great. I've been to so many, I can't say I learned new concepts, but I did come home energized and ready to edit my manuscripts for the umpteenth time. I also had this conversation with a woman in the bathroom (one of many bathroom conversations, by the way):

Me and Brenda"I heard your name called last night. My mom's maiden name is Loveland."

"Oh cool. Where is she from?"  (There are two sets of Lovelands and 99.37% of the time, I hear this from one of the other Lovelands.)

"She's from Wyoming."

"Oh!" I bellowed, my voice echoing around the acoustically-sound hotel bathroom. "My dad is Jack!"

"Oh!" she bellowed back, her voice joining mine in acoustic perfection. "We're cousins!"

And then a bathroom hug happened. I got to hang out with my cousin for the rest of the conference. Another pleasant surprise. (Disclaimer: aforementioned conversation is not an example of my writing skills.)

Conference win/win/win.

Side note: I won't be blogging next week since I'm heading off for vacation this afternoon armed with Embassytown by China Miéville. According to the friend who recommended and lent it to me, once I start reading I won't be able to put it down. I can't wait.

As requested, I'm posting Laetoli, Tanzania for your reading pleasure. Just imagine me reading it breathlessly at a podium. Not in a sexy way.

Laetoli, Tanzania

More than three-and-a-half million years ago 
she left her footprints in the ash,
fossilized, forgotten, found and finally
studied with some kind of reliable science.

They think she bore the weight of a child on her hip—
while another…maybe two…trailed behind,
aping (but not apelike) her footfalls,
primitive and barely upright.

Kicking off from ancestors. Hobbling toward the future.

But they can’t calculate how much her shoulders stooped
as she stepped through the stifling heat,
or how hard her lungs spasmed—trying to cough out ash,
fleeing punctuated equilibrium.

And they haven’t yet hypothesized how many of her tears
joined the rain that made ash into mud—
the mud that preserved her heel-toe, heavy-hipped stride
as fodder for some article in Nature magazine.

After all the hours of observations—a plaster mold, a measurement—
and line after line of notes about half-life and bipedal locomotion,
she was just one more single mother

skirting the edge of disaster.

Blog off (not part of the poem).
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