I'm a big fan of the Muse Online Writers Conference, which takes place every October. Lea Schizas, my friend (and even if she doesn't know it, mentor) is the brains behind the Muse Conference. Lea, along with the other coordinators of this totally online, completely free writers conference, do a spectacular job each year of helping their fellow writers hone their craft over 7 days of workshops and online chats.
I presented a workshop at the 2008 Muse Conference, but I really wanted to focus on me last year, so I took a variety of workshops geared toward the areas that needed improvement.
One of those workshops was titled "Finding Your Writing Voice Through Personal Essays" given by the very talented Ann Hite, who has published more than sixty stories.
This is one of the personal essays I wrote for that workshop. I don't remember all the particulars about the assignment, but I am supposed to be at a family reunion. A relative I haven't seen for years asks me how things are going. This is my response:
"You Asked for It" by Cheryl Malandrinos
“Obviously no one told you how dangerous it is to ask me about my favorite subject—me.” I smirk, waiting for the feigned laughter to die down.
I feel the tickle in the back of my throat as knowing eyes look upward and disappear behind their lids. Someone could have saved us from this torture if this knucklehead hadn’t asked Miss Conceited to get up and tell us what the hell she’s been doing for the past twenty years.
Yeah, I know that’s how they feel, which is why it makes it all the better that poor Uncle Ray really stuck his foot in it by asking. Clearing my throat, I glance upon the crowd, fifty people I have nothing in common with except for blood, and if I could change that I would. Maybe I really was adopted. One can hope.
“Well, you’ve already met my kids—John, Katherine, and our baby, Sarah.” Oh, she hates it when I call her that. ‘I’m six years old, Mom,’ her defiant pout reminds me.
“After Sarah was born I became a stay-at-home mom and decided to fulfill my dream of becoming a published author.”
Aunt Alice leans over to Uncle George and whispers something into his ear. I know it’s nothing nice. Maybe something along the lines of, ‘Who ever told her she could write?’ By now I’m shifting my weight back and forth, something I’ve done ever since I had kids. “I write for a monthly newsletter and my first children’s book will be out next year.” This gets some nods, but they’re not about to call their friends to tell them about their famous relative.
I start pacing so that the rocking doesn’t make me look like I’m holding in an ocean of pee. Sweat trickles down my back. When did it get so darn hot out here? “I review books at my blog and work in book promotion.”
Cousin Tom has his index finger jammed into his back teeth and he’s digging away. For crying out loud, get a tooth pick!
“Other than playing wife and mommy, that’s about it.” I shrug and plaster a smile across my face.
Hands offer half-hearted claps from the few people still paying attention. As I slink back toward the table where my husband and the girls are nibbling on the last few potato chips, Linda, a cousin on my father’s side, saunters up to me. The tip of her turned up nose embellished by the way her green eyes glare downward.
“You should call your father. He doesn’t know what you’ve been up to lately either.” Her lips purse into a thin line, awaiting my response.
“Maybe I will.” I march off and plop into the empty chair next to Sarah. Who am I kidding? There will be peace in the Middle East before I ever call dear old dad.