“Wake up, Shannon. Are you all right? Are you having a bad dream?”
The soft, but anxious voice of my crit partner and roommate, Terri, pulled me from my sleep. I realized with a jolt that as I had been yelling in my dream, I was moaning—or something—out loud. It happens occasionally when I have a particularly upsetting nightmare, but do this in a room with three other people who are not family—I was quite embarrassed.
“Uh, yeah. I’m okay,” I mumbled back. My throat felt raw. Michelle and Kelly stirred in the other bed, also awake. My mortification deepened.
“Can I pray for you?” Terri whispered.
I thought for second. What was the dream about? It came back to me quickly—something utterly stupid. What was that about? And then I remembered that essentially a demon was after me. My next thought—why? Why me? I am not important enough …
I accepted Terri’s prayer with sheepish gratitude.
Lord, why am I here, again?
The night before, in reflecting on my weariness and confusion during John’s feedback, I’d thought about the words of one of our worship songs—I offer You my brokenness—and asked the Lord, What? I don’t have enough brokenness that You have to add to it?
A selfish, petulant question. I hate when I catch myself asking God things like that, because it so betrays the weakness in my faith.
It was 5 AM. We tried to go back to sleep—Michelle succeeded, fortunate one—but finally Terri went to shower, and Kelly also got up. While she waited her turn in the shower, Kelly quietly told me about a recent experience where God led her to do a 40-day fast—but never really showed her the reasons, although some undoubtedly neat things came of it.
Terri finished and Kelly went in, and after getting dressed, Terri left the room for something. I got up to check my email and pull things together for the day. I’d be having my editorial appointments this morning and now I felt even less prepared than ever.
Sitting at the desk, alone while Michelle slept (and I was glad), I cried yet again and poured out all my frustration to the Lord. In the process, I realized that He’d spoken through Kelly, and that I needed to be willing to be okay with possibly not knowing what my full purpose was for being at this conference. Somehow, God’s love and grace just wrapped me about—all over again—and I had strength to face the day.
My first appointment at 9 AM wound up getting pushed back to the afternoon. Beth and I went downstairs to have coffee and just hang out, since the first session had already started. While we were sitting there, some of the other SF/F people stopped to visit, and suddenly John Olson was there as well. He fastened me with this little-boy look and said, “Are we still friends?”
To my utter chagrin, I got suddenly tonguetied and could only laugh. Someone watching remarked, “Uh oh,” so I knew I had to pull it together and assure John that no, there were no hard feelings; I am more tenacious than that. He seemed genuinely relieved—and suddenly I felt much better about the whole thing.
My next appointment was at 11 with Dave Long. Beth and I walked upstairs, since she had one at the same time with Steve Laube. We had fun talking in the hallway while we waited. My mentee John Otte had an appointment with Steve just before Beth. “May the Force be with you,” I called out as he went in.
Though the ensuing giggles were a great stress reliever, when Michelle and Kelly walked up a few minutes later and asked how I was doing, I answered, “I need to throw up.”
Michelle said, deadpan, “Oh? Do you need a shoe?”
I looked down and saw that Kelly was wearing sandals. “Oh, that would be messy,” I said, and then we really did laugh.
And THEN Dave Long came to the door. It was time!
Next time: how NOT to approach an editor …