Diving Off the Deep End

I never learned to swim as a child, so when I went to college, I signed up for beginning swimming for my PE credit. On the first day of class, the teacher had us line up at the deep end, then she said, “Dive in.” What????? I stared at her, totally out of my depth. Well, not really out of my depth since I didn’t even jump into the pool. I just stood on the sidelines while everyone else dived. The teacher kicked me out of the class. Apparently, though the syllabus clearly stated the class was for those wanting to learn how to swim, there was an undeclared understanding that people who could swim took the course as an easy way to satisfy the PE requirement, and she had no patience for someone who could barely float.

Today, I’m feeling the way I did that long ago day standing on the edge of the edge of the pool. I mentioned a year or so ago that I was asked to be a speaker at the Scribblers Retreat Writer’s Conference on St. Simon’s Island in Georgia, but I had to cancel due to a death. (Not mine, though it felt like it.) I thought that was the end of it, but conference organizers contacted me and asked me to reschedule. So I did. I’ll be speaking at the May 2011 conference at 3:00 on Friday the 13th. Perhaps an auspicious date? I hope so! This will be my first ever speaker engagement. (No honorarium, but an incredible honor.)

I had no idea of the scope of the conference until today when I learned that the conference was recently voted one of the “Top Ten Organized Conferences in the U.S.” by Writer’s Digest. I also learned that Phillip Margolin will be fellow a speaker. Gulp. This is the big time. The deep end. Shouldn’t I dip a toe in first? Test the waters? Nope. Have to learn to dive very, very quickly.

Oddly enough, despite my lack of experience and a niggling worry that someone made a mistake by inviting me, I know I can do a good job. I plan to use my character questionnaire and, with audience participation, show how to develop a character (and subplots and tension) by making a series of small decisions. I realize talking before a group is not the same thing as moderating online discussion groups, which is my usual venue for talking about writing, but I plan on having fun. And anyway, it’s not as if I’m going to drown — or get kicked out of class — if things don’t work out right.