I made a solo road trip to Dyersville, Iowa for the Mississippi River Writers conference. I don’t normally go on road trips by myself, but since this was a working weekend for me my husband stayed home. I started out a little apprehensive because I was taking a different route than I normally do so I wasn’t sure where along the way I would be stopping.
My first stop was about two hours into my four and a half hour trip. I accidentally stopped at a truck stop. I swear it looked nothing like a truck stop so I had no idea until I was eating my lunch and overheard someone paging number 33 to shower number 3. I almost giggled because it was so out of the ordinary. This happened not only once, but twice while I was there. I stood in line at the counter after I finished eating to buy some water and a soda. There were two men in front of me. The first man was buying a power converter and the cashier was having trouble with something so the line stalled, and by stalled I mean it didn’t move for about ten minutes. The second man tells the first one that he just bought that same power converter so he could plug a Crockpot in and cook while he was on the road. Both men are discussing food and waiting patiently while I’m getting antsy. Hurry up! I need to get back on the road! I’ve been stopped for too long and I’ll be late for the presenter meeting! During my silent rant, I happened to glance behind me and notice the line is at least ten men deep behind me and all of them are waiting patiently. At this point I’m chastising myself for being impatient. All of these men have every right to be impatient because they all have deadlines to get their loads somewhere and they were all being polite and patient, I could wait patiently too. First Lesson: I can be patient, slow down, and take time to smell the coffee. Everyone has somewhere they need to be too and it’s not the cashiers fault.
As I travelled East across Iowa I was struck by how bright green the grass was compared to Minnesota. I passed miles and miles of tired barns with sagging roofs and natural skylights, two wind energy farms, and in my 70 mph streak, a sign about Field of Dreams. I had no idea exactly what the sign said because I caught it while I was going past it, not coming up on it. I wondered how far the Field of Dreams field was from where I would be staying. I reached the hotel, checked in, and asked. I was in luck, it was four miles away, free, and open for two more hours. I called one of the presenters I was meeting and found out everyone was about an hour out so I hightailed it out to see Field of Dreams. It is early in the year so it was pretty empty. There were two cars in the lot when I pulled in and when one left another one drove in. I was so excited to get perfect pictures because it was empty, but when I reached into my purse for my camera I pulled out a camera with dead batteries. Unfortunately, my camera uses a special battery so I couldn’t buy some in the gift shop. I was bummed because I made it there and couldn’t take pictures to share with my husband. It then occurred to me to use my phone. I’m trying to snap pictures with my phone and grumbling because I can’t adjust the light to get them to come out right and I want my REAL camera. The pictures I’ve used here are the ones I took with my phone.
I decided I just needed to enjoy the scenery and forget taking pictures. I spent a little time talking to the gift shop cashier. She told me that if I can I should come back in August when the corn has grown. She said it’s packed with people from all over and people play ball with each other on the field. She shared with me that the farm has been sold and there are plans to make a bunch of ball fields in the middle of the corn and have tournaments starting next summer. They will be preserving the house and original field. Lesson Two: Never leave the house without charging the camera battery.
I had dinner with the presenters and we discussed the presentations and schedule for the conference. I wasn’t supposed to present at the conference, just be there for questions and help out. Guess what?! I ended up helping present material on self-publishing. The presentation was a lively, interactive discussion and I wish I would have had the examples I needed but it went well and everyone took away the answers to their self-publishing questions. Lesson Three: Always come ready for anything to a conference, you never know when you will need to help out.
I received a message during a break that it was snowing in Minnesota. I really wish Summer would come. I’m wondering how the drive home will be when I see this picture my friend posted. Saturday was Minnesota’s Fishing Opener, which is a holiday in Minnesota. I knew when I saw this picture the snow wasn’t staying because Travis had been on the lake in a boat catching fish. For those of you who do not live in Minnesota, yes we do dress like this (shorts and a winter coat) once the weather starts climbing out of the frozen tundra and looks hopeful.
I had so much fun at the writers conference Saturday that I can’t wait for the next one. I came away energized and ready to work. I met many authors and enjoyed talking with them all. I enjoyed reading all the entries for the short story contest. They were all so different even though every author had the same characters to work with. Peter Woodruff won with the short story Hairline Estate. Lesson Four: Attend more writing conferences. They are full of energy and it’s fun to meet other authors.
I am looking forward to the next road trip and attending the next conference. If any of you have topics you would like covered please let me know and we will try to accommodate.