Your stage is waiting

I have a soft spot for The Voice and American Idol. As I watch, I think about what courage it took for each of those people to walk into the initial audition room. To believe enough in their abilities and potential that they would perform in front of celebrities. To be able to stand there and accept both criticism and accolades from people who have excelled in the industry they want to join. Over and over, I think about how in awe I am of their courage.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak at a meeting of a local women’s literary society of which I am a member. The theme for the year was women authors, and they asked me to discuss my writing journey so far and read Amazing Grace, the essay I wrote that won the Writer’s Digest Inspirational Writing competition. While being grateful for their show of support and interest in me, I felt a little like an imposter. I’m nobody yet. (Maybe not ever.) But it was nice to have all these lovely women believe in me.

To prepare for my talk for that day, I wrote about attending the Elizabeth Berg Writer’s Studio in Positano, Italy. About being sick to my stomach at the mere thought of it, because I wanted it so badly. Writing. One of my all-time favorite authors. Italy. A week on my own. Writing. Elizabeth Berg. And did I mention Italy?

As I gave my presentation that afternoon, I suddenly realized something. I had done practically the same thing as all those Idol hopefuls. Walked into a room with someone who’d already made it and put myself out there… not having the slightest idea whether I really was good enough. I read my words for Elizabeth to critique. I listened to the responses. I came back the next day with something else. And then something else again. I was scared — nervous, somewhat intimidated — at the time. But now I look back and think wow, how did I possibly have the courage to do that?

But I did. And it worked. The essay I wrote in Positano won a writing competition. And I say that not to brag but to get to this point: You just don’t know what you can do until you put yourself out there. You don’t know how people will respond to what you have to offer until you offer it. You don’t know if you can do it, let alone do it well, until you try.

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Elizabeth Berg will be giving the keynote speech at this year’s Midwest Writers Workshop. I’m on the planning committee, so I will get to see her. You can see her, too, if you’re interested. Friday, July 25 at 7 pm, she will be speaking at Pruis Hall on Ball State University’s campus in Muncie, IN, and doing a book signing afterwards. It’s free and open to the public, and you do not need tickets to attend, but if you like to be thorough, you may reserve a seat through Eventbrite.

Or better yet — come to the workshop. Maybe this is your Idol moment. If you want to go to Italy to kickstart your dream, I don’t blame you. And I’d love to go with you. But it’s not always practical to take such a big leap. When I attended my first MWW six years ago, I was terrified. I wasn’t a “real” writer. I wasn’t even working on a book. I just felt that nudge inside myself to try. Give it a chance.

If you can get away for a few days in late July, register today, because there are only a handful of spots left. Elizabeth wrote in her book, Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True, something along these lines (I’m not home right now to be able to look it up): Invest in the nicest journal you can afford. It’s a way of reminding yourself what matters to you. I applied the same logic to my trip to Italy. I was telling the world — my family, my friends, my God — that my writing was important. And in my heart of hearts — even though I’d already written and submitted my book proposal — that that is when it all started for me.

This workshop might be the thing that matters to you. I hope it is. I hope I see you there. And I hope you walk away with a golden ticket — or, at the very least, a pocket full of business cards of other people with similar dreams. And, if you stick around after the talk on Friday night, a book signed by the lovely Elizabeth Berg.

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