I decided to become a novelist shortly after my mom passed away in 2006 from cancer. My father had died (also cancer) when I was a year old, so I found myself without any immediate family and completely on my own by the age of 20. The latter was probably a good thing, the former not so much.
Still, I wasn’t writing as much as I should’ve been due to perfectionism, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, etc.
Once I failed to graduate college, I was miserable. I hadn’t achieved any goals and I was still living in Puerto Rico, which is where I’ve lived since I was five-years-old and desperately wanted to leave since I was 13.
So after a Quarter-Life crisis, I decided I had enough. I was going to take my goals seriously. Moving to the U.S. was one of them, so after family on my father’s side found and contacted me (thank you Facebook!), I moved in with my aunt and uncle in Fayetteville, Georgia.
Meanwhile, I’d become an avid fan of Chuck Wendig and his blog Terribleminds.com for at least a year now. He was one of my writing idols because he was doing it. He was writing full time and doing it HIS way. I loved that. Thanks to his blog and his books, I was writing more than ever before. So when I heard he was speaking at the Crossroads Writers Conference in Macon, just two hours away, I had to be there.
But I had no money and no job.
Luckily, Chuck was giving away several tickets randomly to whoever entered that week’s Flash Fiction Challenge on his blog and I managed to win one.
But I didn’t have a ride.
So I started emailing and searching online, looking for someone I could hitch a ride with. I remembered NaNoWriMo.org and the fact Chris Baty was keynote speaker at the conference. I logged on, hit the Atlanta region forum and long story short, secured a ride to the conference and made a new friend all at the same time.
God must have been smiling at me or maybe this was a sign from the Universe that writing was my calling, because it was like winning the writers conference jackpot.
Despite my ticket being the basic one-day package, I got invited to the NaNoWriMo meet-up with Chris Baty on Sunday and my friend let me stay in her hotel room for the night (she had gotten the Deluxe Package). I also got to go to the Saturday night reception after the conference. I was able to get over my nerves and have real conversations with full-time published authors and other great people, people doing what I’ve always wanted to do: Chuck Wendig, Adam Mansbach, Robert Venditti, Delilah S Dawson, and many others.
I had a blast and I’m so glad it all worked out in the end, despite not having any money. I kind of wish I had taken more photos to remember it all.
And now it’s over and I’m sitting at the table writing this.
So there you have it, my story.
With lots of love,
Amber J Gardner.