So here’s the thing. I’m a weirdo. This statement probably surprises no one who’s interacted with me ever. On social media I tend to be pretty outgoing and vocal, and this is also true about me face to face… well, once I’ve gotten to know you some.
I like to call myself an awkward turtle. Here’s why. I’m the kind of person who, when faced with a new social situation, will find the one or two people I know and attach myself to them because I am, frankly, terrified of taking those first steps in introductions. I imagine I come off as standoffish or maybe bored, but this is categorically untrue. Awkward Turtle has simply retreated into her shell until another less-awkward turtle has knocked on said shell and given her permission to come out and interact with the others. I have never been the kind of turtle to strike up a conversation with another strange turtle because I am horribly, terribly awful at breaking the ice. My mind goes totally blank and I can’t think of a single thing to say to engage the other turtles. I go into every new interaction assuming the other person has zero interest in who I am or what I have to say, probably because then there’s no risk of disappointment. This is who I am. This zero-expectation was my safety net growing up. It’s a holdover from childhood, when almost every interaction I had was inevitably painful for me. While I’m working on changing the little voice in my head that fills me with doubts and self-criticism, the scars still remain.
That said, enter the Scary New Thing.
Several months ago, my friend Misty Provencher began talking about UtopYA Con, a convention for (primarily) female writers/readers/bloggers in the Young Adult/New Adult categories. My first thought was that I really wanted to go, Awkward Turtle aside, but with a deployed husband and three kids, I didn’t think it would be possible. And then UtopYA sold out, and it became a moot point. However, right around the time Maven released, the universe aligned and everything fell into place in a way that I was suddenly able to attend the convention. Awkward Turtle turned into Panicked Turtle for a bit, but I pushed that aside and decided to take the plunge and stare down the Scary New Thing.
I’m not really sure where to begin expressing the amazing experience UtopYA was this past weekend. Of all the attendees, I knew a few in passing, but had only really spoken with two of them at any length, those being Misty and Flail Herder Extraordinaire Dani Morales. I quickly got to know Heather King, as a set of circumstances saw me becoming roomies with her and Dani for the weekend.
And so, these three ladies were then tasked with the burden that is Awkward Turtle. I hovered awkwardly, like I do, as they found some of their friends and hugs were exchanged. Bless them all, they made some introductions and eventually I started to breathe again. I was still overwhelmed, however. That first night I got to see the larger-than-life personalities of Chelsea Fine, Michelle M. Leighton, Quinn Loftis, and Addison Moore and I had no idea where to begin. With people like that around, was there even room for me? For twenty-four hours, it felt like the answer was no.
I think I can pinpoint the moment things changed. I shared a wonderful dinner with Dave Robinson and his wife Teri, at which point I returned to the hotel where most everyone was staying. My roomies and Misty had all gone out to dinner, leaving me on my own, so Awkward Turtle was sitting in the lobby waiting for anyone to come along and save her.
And someone did. Eventually a new acquaintance wandered through, collected me, and together we headed to the hotel bar where a few other UtopYA-ans were chatting outside on the patio. This is the moment where everything changed for me. These people wanted to talk to me, to get to know me, two of them even bought print copies of Maven from me that night! And as more people showed up, the better it got. I was still Awkward Turtle, but now the ice was broken. It only got better from there out and there has been a significant shift in my world because of it.
I can’t even begin to name all of the amazing people I met this weekend, but I hope they all know how wonderful, brilliant, beautiful, talented and kind they all are. Awkward Turtle thanks you for pulling her out of her shell and allowing her to be a part of your fabulous community. Specifically, I want to thank these people, though I adore everyone I met and will feel terrible for leaving anyone off of this list:
- Misty Provencher – you are the reason for all of this. I could write a book about how much it has meant to me in having you as a friend.
- Dani Morales and Heather King – both of you are amazing. Thank you for saving me from baking alive in that dorm room! I can’t imagine two greater angels than you.
- Candace Selph – I am stunned at how you’ve brought me into your fold in just a few short days. You’ve already helped make my books better and I can’t wait to see what’s next!
- Michele G. Miller – I wish you lived closer! You were so warm and welcoming and I learned so much from you over the weekend! I see the beginning of a great friendship here and cannot wait to see you again!
- Tess Watson – I didn’t get to spend quite as much time with you, but wow! You really know your stuff, lady! I’m so glad I got to chat with you!
- Kathryn Grimes – We hadn’t spoken much before UtopYA, but I was really looking forward to meeting you. Thank you for your support and for being so easy to get along with! Awkward Turtle will always remember you for that.
- Amy Evans – You turned my subdued fangirl moment into something I never expected: a new project. I am SO EXCITED about what’s coming and at the prospect of getting to work with such a sweet person!
- Amanda Havard – You are an inspiration to Awkward Turtles everywhere. Thank you for the music and I’m hoping to rope you in to this new thing brewing on the horizon. ;)
- Jackie McPherson – I cannot wait to get together some time! I’m super pumped that we live nearby each other!
- Heather Hildenbrand – I totally had a SQUEE moment when you recognized the Maven cover and got a little excited about it. That completely made my day. That you also live nearby… I won’t lie. I’m kinda muppet-flailing about that a little.
- Adriane Boyd – Your boisterous personality is infectious. Thank you for immediately putting me at ease.
- Sarah Ashley Jones and Captain America – WHY DO YOU NOT LIVE CLOSER???
- Chelsea Fine – I will never EVAR stop talking about the time Chelsea Fine said she kinda had a crush on me because I looked like a pinup girl. Never. I <3 you and wish I’d gotten to chat with you more. Your smile is contagious!
- Adam Kunz – You give the BEST hugs! Thank you for listening to me ramble as Awkward Turtles do. You and Carol are beyond amazing!
- A. M. Hargrove – I can’t imagine you being any more fun! I really don’t know how you contain all that sass and hilarity and friendliness in one body. Rice noodles and aardvarks?
- Mary Smith – If I could put a picture of you in the dictionary, I’d stick you under “sweet”. Though, that seems an underestimation of how kind you really are.
- Delphina Miyares – So glad I got to meet you! That you love geeky math and science stuff only raises you up that much more in my esteem. <3
I know there are more, but I simply cannot remember them right now. I met so very many wonderful people this weekend I feel like my world has exploded in size overnight! Thank you to all of you who made the Scary New Thing not quite so scary after all. Awkward Turtle sends you all hugs and <3’s!