Danger! Danger!

Recently, Lori Deboer, my fiction coach, suggested I go to a writer’s conference, and I dreamed of attending one. No, really, I dreamed I went to an expensive gathering fraught with critique and agents who hate writers.

On the final day of that conference, I was lost in the staircase of a dormitory, asking everyone why no one had commented as promised on my story. No answer. I tried to leave the dorm by an elevated ramp and a freight train roared up out of the dark. Determined to get out of that place, I packed all my belongings into a blue baby buggy and pushed through a crowded room toward the exit.

In one corner a smiling, maternal-looking agent sat quoting her favorite bits from a submission. Clearly, she was about to sign the frozen-faced young writer, whose parents sat nearby, protecting, no doubt, their progeny/prodigy from shysters and salacious literary sharks. To reach the door, I pushed the buggy right through this foursome, interrupting the first book deal of that writer’s  career and the retirement hopes of those parents with knitted brows and staring eyes. I snagged the edge of a fancy tablecloth, pulling it and a cup of curdled coffee onto the pale carpet. The buggy wheels scraped the walls. All the time apologizing and barging toward the exit, I ran down a small child who had been abandoned by her parents. Maybe she was a prop for a picture-book deal that soured.

Suddenly, in the way of dreams, I was on a high marble portico looking down at what might have been the steps of Rome, down which I must guide my heavy baby carriage without smashing the limbs of writers sprawled in the sun, waiting for their names to be called by the Supreme Court. As I bumped down those sharp-edged steps, I grabbed the carriage wheels to slow its increasing downward flight, knowing that I was losing my grip. None of this symbolism needs explanation, does it?

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