I am now an old-timer.
I realized this last weekend, at the Colorado Gold conference, and the new-found awareness of the role is a bit daunting.
Twenty years ago, I attended my first RMFW conference. I was new to RMFW, having joined earlier in the year after hearing a published member’s presentation on how supportive the organization was. I was a new writer and it seemed just the sort of thing I needed to launch my career, which I was (erroneously) convinced was going to rocket.
Back then, I was still a long way from realizing my potential as a writer and from emerging from my shell of introversion. I knew exactly two people at that conference. I hugged walls, stayed in corners, and observed. I was both eager for someone to talk to me and scared to death that I would have to respond if someone did.
I watched those who were long-term members and active volunteers with their lengths of ribbons and easy conversations. I heard about new contracts and bought stacks of signed books from my idols. I sat in awe as speakers stepped up to the lectern and award winners crossed the podium. I dreamed of one day doing the same.
Over the years, I grew in craft. I was more selective in the workshops I chose because I finally knew the basics. I also began to emerge from my shell. I knew more people each year and looked forward to visiting with them. Yet, there were many long-time members I lacked the courage to approach. I still marveled at long rows of ribbons and those who won awards. I pitched nervously every year and wondered when I would find a publisher.
Several things happened to change all that. My writing became better…I knew I was getting closer to publication and wasn’t so nervous about whether or not I belonged in RMFW. I had a great support network within my critique groups and I began to identify myself as a writer not as someone who wrote. About the same time I contracted my first book, I experienced some pretty devastating life events but emerged stronger as my writing family reached out to me and I discovered strength I didn’t know I had. A move to the Denver metro area allowed me to attend more writing events and to volunteer.
All of a sudden, there was no doubt that I belonged. I took on more responsibility and sported more ribbons each year. Today, the ribbons no longer seem to matter. I’ve published and signed books and presented workshops and won awards and crossed that podium and spoken to the entire Colorado Gold group. I haven’t stood against the wall for years and nobody puts this baby in a corner (which doesn’t necessarily mean I am any less introverted—I just refuse to be defined as in introvert).
Still, I saw myself only as a seasoned writer. I didn’t put myself in the same league as the idols I’ve had all these years. I still don’t.
But…this year…there was a difference.
This year, as RMFW president, I spoke to first time attendees in an official capacity. Their reactions stunned me. Approximately one-hundred fifty people saw me as an expert. They eyed my ribbons with amazement. They approached me and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, but….” They were afraid to sit at my table during meals and treated me with deference. They all seemed to know my name…I was “the president.”
It felt odd, being looked up to that way—the way I used to look up to others. After all, I’m just a writer who volunteers.
That’s when it hit me.
I have become an old-timer.
There are still many who have been members of RMFW longer than I have. There are myriads of more experienced, more well-known, better writers than I am. They remain my idols and I don’t pretend to claim equality with them. But my role has changed.
I have responsibilities.
I am now a leader in RMFW and my duties include making sure the new members and fledgling writers find all that I have discovered within this organization. I hope I was able to at least make a start toward doing so.
Me…an old timer? Gee whiz!