Coming Home: Reality, Snow, and Winter Institute

This past week I got to do something I've never done before - attend Winter Institute.

If you don't know, Winter Institute is an annual convention attended by indie booksellers where authors, booksellers, and quite a few librarians all mingle, talk books - and hopefully make an impression on one another.

This year it was in Albuquerque - somewhere I've been before and was ready to go back to. Whenever people ask me what my favorite city in my travels has been, I usually have to base that judgement on their airport and / or convention center. Such is the nature of work-based travel. However, having spent some leisure time in ABQ a few years ago, I can say that I generally do like the place.

Also ranking high on my list of awesome cities is Fargo. Yes, really.

Regardless, I first had to get to Albuquerque, which turned out to be way more of a problem than expected. Chicago is both an airport hub, and the hub of all my problems, generally speaking.

Without going into too much detail, I was supposed to get to ABQ at noon. I got there at 5:30. I was delayed so long, and so often, that I finished reading Moby Dick, which is my new metric for delays.

I did get into the city in time for my first Winter Institute event - a dinner with indie bookstore owners and fellow Harper authors. It was a great time, with lots of book talk, and - hopefully - some good conversation on my part. I'd been up for 17 hours at that point so any charm I possessed at that time is mostly due to coffee.

Then I slept for about ten hours. It felt awesome.

The next day I had an interview with LibroFM, followed by a cocktail hour where authors lined the walls, signing free copies of their books for attendees. It's breakneck, with people actually running through the doors when they open in order to ensure they get the books they want.

I signed for the full hour, then was whisked off to another dinner and mingling, with excellent food and better company, then came back to the hotel to sleep, and return home... mostly without delays.

I left behind 50 degree weather, a nice hotel room and catered dinners to come home to 10 degrees (projected -20 tomorrow!), no food in the fridge, laundry that needed to be done, a driveway that needed shoveling, and a dog that was so happy to see me, he pooped on the floor.

Welcome home.

I share this not because my life is difficult (it's not) but to convey that my life is... pretty average. It's easy to see authors posting pictures of fancy dinners, crowded signing rooms, and famous meetups, and think that a red carpet must be rolled out wherever we go.

It's not. And if it were, at my house, it would get peed on.

Author Mindy's life and Real Mindy's life are two different things, something that should be pretty clear by now. But I want to take it a step further.

The glitter canons of Twitter and white-toothed-selfie's of Instagram convey a story - one that is carefully curated.

I didn't tweet about the many, many booksellers who congratulated me on my first book (HERONE will be my 8th, the first seven having passed by without their notice), or the people who picked up a copy, perused it, then decided they didn't want to give it the room in their bag, or tote it home on the plane.

I share these things now because I think it's important for aspiring writers - and fellow midlist authors - to know what an event such as this actually looks like when you're in it. Yes, it's amazing. No, it's not difficult - one of my handlers thanked me for making an appearance at the author dinner right on the heels of my horrible day of traveling. I said, "I'm a farmer's daughter. My first job was called Pick Up Rocks. I was 5. It was 90 degrees. I can eat dinner and talk about myself this evening. It's not a problem or a hardship."

And it's not. I'm blessed to have a publisher behind me, a release coming up, and a tour to promote it.

And maybe next year they'll send me to Winter Institute again... with my ninth book (not my first.)