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Monday, October 27, 2014

NYC or Bust: Or Why I Almost Cried on Friday, Part the Second

Yesterday I posted the first part of my NYC Henson-filled adventures. If you missed it, you can catch up here. Today you get to hear about the Dark Crystal reception.

For anyone who doesn't know me in real life, I'm very much an introvert and socially awkward. (I'm working on it.) Now, remember I've already gone through a heck of an emotional roller coaster earlier in the afternoon. This information makes the fact that I spent most of the evening with a maniacal smile plastered on my face and a deer-in-the-headlights mentality a little less horrible.

Not going to spend a lot of time on the actual screening other than to say it was so much better than watching it on the TV screen. The colors and detail were so vivid, I caught things I'd never seen before. I wasn't the only one to notice the difference, either. It was pretty well agreed that no one ever wanted to watch it any way other than on the big screen.

Movie and public presentation finish and those of us invited to the after-party head up to the room. Again, we have only name tags with our association to the Dark Crystal. (Mine said 'Author Quest.' Michael Frith's said 'Dark Crystal Cast/Crew.')

I grabbed a soda and move towards a corner where I try not to hide, but I'm not sure what to do with myself. The room was filling with cast and crew members from the Dark Crystal, including Michael Frith, Kathryn Mullen and, of course, Brian and Wendy Froud. I tell Erin, my co-adventurer, that I'm completely out of my depth.

A few of the other authors and creature contest finalists are there, so we chat some more. I'm still trying to figure out how to go about talking with all these people I'm in awe of. Turns out I didn't need to worry. Not only were they all super-friendly and approachable, but Cheryl Henson facilitated what was probably my most memorable moment of the night.

Think of someone you look up to for inspiration. Someone you admire, whether it's a writer, musician, doctor, scientist. Got that person? Now, think of one of your life's greatest goals. It could be to become published, picked up by a record label, discover a cure for a disease. Think of someone who can help you reach that goal either because they're already in the field or they can fund it or they have resources you can use. Got both those people? Good. Finally, imagine that the person you admire brings over the person who can make your dream come true to meet you. That is what Friday night felt like.

I was still over at the fringe of the party when I look up and see Cheryl Henson heading straight for me with three Random Penguins in tow. (Ok, only writers and publishing people will get that joke.) Ms. Henson stops in front of me with the executive editor for Penguin Group for Young Readers and two other editors and makes introductions. They go something like this:

"This is Editor A, B, and C (no, they had real names, but I'm leaving them out for the sake of this post) from Penguin. This is Emily McKeon. I wanted to make sure you connected with each other. I've already told her how much we enjoyed her writing and the reason we had to drop her from the running."

At this, maniacal smile is firmly in place as I shake their hands and they in turn tell me how great my writing is and ask if I have any other fantasy pieces. We talk for a while, I can't even tell you exactly what was said because my brain was going, "Oh my god, is this really happening?" over and over again. They move on after a bit and Erin whispers behind me, "I think Cheryl Henson just fangirled you."

After something like that, it was hard to top, but the night continued to be fantastic. Wendy Froud told me she liked my story but wishes she knew what happened after. Some of the creature contest winners brought their creation, a working puppet, and Kathy Mullins animated it. Then she gave the creators tips to make it better and more life-like when it's being puppeted. In the spirit of Jim Henson, everyone there was more interested in helping others out than trumpeting their own successes. They wanted those of us new to this to succeed. It was mind-blowing to have these people who we looked up to and aspired to be like, excited over our work.

As I made my good-bye rounds and gained contact information from other writers so we could keep in touch, I also gained the business card of the executive editor of Penguin. He handed it to me saying, "For you, Emily. In case you have anything you'd like to pass along to me."

Deer-in-the-headlights and a stammered 'Thank You' from me. Hopefully my awkwardness didn't make him change his mind. (I still have his card, so that's one point for me, yes?)

Finally, I had to say good-bye to Ms. Henson, who spent time chatting with me like we were old friends. She was talking with Michael Frith when we went to leave, but she asked him to wait a minute when she saw us getting ready to leave. She then hugged me (yes, I got a hug from Cheryl Henson) and thanked me for coming. Like a sincere, "Thank you so much for coming and being a part of this." My brain, despite being nearly fried at that point, managed an acceptable, "Thank you for all of this. It's amazing and an honor to be included."

So, that's my Friday in a nutshell. There are a lot of little things that happened at both events that I didn't include, like my awkward chat with Toby Froud. But if you'd like to hear more about anything I mentioned or if you have questions, I'm very happy to talk more about it. I will say that when I got home on Saturday, my brain finally caught up with everything that happened and I cried.

They were happy tears. I want to thank everyone who took the time to read and critique my Dark Crystal entry to make it the best it could be. It's because of all of you that this Dreamer's dream was made reality.