How to Conversation

Why hello. It’s been a bit.

I just returned from New York City, from an ingathering of Clarion classmates. Sam Miller and Carmen Machado read with our instructor Delia Sherman, and several other talented people, at an LGBTQ SFF event at Bluestockings bookstore in Manhattan, so a load of us flew out to see them. And eat a lot of food. I mean, A LOT OF FOOD. It seems that whenever we have a little Clarion get together, our main focus is not on sightseeing, but on eating, and talking with each other.

Which brings me around to my point. I am bad at conversation. Always have been. Or at least I feel I am. But among Clarionauts, and among other SFF writer types, it seems there is always something to talk about. Just turn the conversation towards books or writing, and there’s something there. And even if you do lapse into silence, it’s all right, because everyone is probably mulling over some cool idea that may come up later, in talk or story form.

Among the many, many other things that Clarion taught me–how to write more awesomer, how to have a seaweed fight, how to appreciate Scotch, how to not sleep ever, how to surrender sanity–it also seems to have taught me to engage others in conversation, at least at a novice level.

The secret, apparently, is that there is no secret. That conversation is a give-and-take. That you can have one with anybody. That there is a rhythm and rhyme. It is much like writing. Tap tap tap. Stop. Think. Reread. Tap tap tap.

Recently, I had fallen into a bit of a funk. My writing was slow. I had finished applying to grad school. I had nothing to do but work my non-writing-related job and worry about…well, everything. I was pulling back into my little introvert shell, afraid of being hurt by the world.

Four days in New York City with people who understand both the need for quiet and the joy of conversation? It was a reset button. I came home invigorated, ready to write and fearlessly engage with the world again.

I ended up talking to my neighbor on the flight home. I’ve always wanted to be somebody who talks to their seat companion on a flight. Guess what? There’s no magic spell to make you into that person. You just do it, through the incantation of conversation.

Tap tap tap. Think. Reread. Tap tap tap.

And you’ve done it. You’re conversating. Congratulations.

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