“No one will like you.”
I whirled around, my long hair whipping against my face as I looked back. Who’d said that? But there wasn’t anyone behind me. I was alone in the van with my parents.
“Your friends from the forum will be disappointed when they meet you.”
I closed my eyes and shrank back against the seat. I recognized the voice now. My thoughts had come to torment me.
“No one will like your story either,” the thoughts taunted.
I placed a protective hand over my messenger bag. Inside it I’d hidden my pens, a new notebook, and the copies of the first five pages of my novel. I’d been told to bring them to the Adventure Novel Writer’s Conference I’d come all the way to Kansas to attend. Apparently we’d be sharing the copies with our peers, giving them a chance to critique our work. But what if everyone did hate my story? Was I really cut out to be a writer? Maybe this had all been a big mistake. Maybe we could turn back and….
“We’re here!” Mom said, as Dad parked the car in front of an imposing brick building.
“Great,” I muttered.
“You’re not nervous, are you?” she asked.
I shook my head. Who me? Nervous? If only they knew.
“We’re very proud of you,” she said.
“Yes,” Dad agreed.
“Thanks,” I replied, slowly climbing out of the car. Would they still be proud when they picked me up tonight and heard what an awful time I’d had?
Hoisting my bag onto my shoulder, I climbed the steps to the door. The building reminded me of a pirate’s treasure chest. What would I find inside?
“You won’t have any fun, you know,” the voice said, breaking into my thoughts. “You’ve never been cool enough to have friends. You’ll end up sitting alone at the back of the room, all by yourself.”
“Shut up!” I snapped, yanking the door open and stepping inside.
The place was a madhouse, my worst nightmare come true. Dozens of teen boys and girls milled about all over the place, talking and laughing, as if they’d known each other for years.
I paused, scared, bewildered by the crowd. What should I do? Who were these people? I didn’t recognize any of my friends from the writer’s forum.
Then a girl turned, smiled at me, and said, “Hi!”
Relief flooded over me. “Hi,” I replied.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“No, I mean, who are you on the forum?”
I told her my username, and felt relieved when I recognized hers.
“It’s great to finally meet you in person,” she laughed.
“Same here,” I said, grinning.
Things got easier after that. I received a nametag, found a few people I knew, and introduced myself to others I hadn’t met. When the crowd began moving toward the conference room, I followed, surrounded by friends.
Grabbing a seat at the end of an aisle near the front, I applauded with the rest as our teacher, Mr. X, got up to give the keynote address.
“I wanted to tell you why I created this curriculum,” Mr. X said. “One time, I was interviewing a publisher’s agent with a bunch of other writers, when someone asked him why he liked working with Young Adult fiction. The agent told us it was because he could get away with more things with young adults than he could with anyone else.”
Then Mr. X told us about the moral decline of modern day stories. Authors were writing weird, polluted stories that didn’t focus on the truth.
He gave us examples of stories that had changed our culture, in good ways and bad, and reminded us how Jesus had used stories to change the hearts of the people he taught. All of us listened intently, and I loved how we laughed at the same jokes and recognized the same stories.
Finally, Mr. X fixed us with his eyes and said, “I want you to remember this: Don’t try to be something you aren’t. Don’t try to give people what you don’t have. You know the truth. Give them the truth.”
And as everyone applauded, I captured the scene and stored it in my heart, knowing that this moment would be a turning point in my writing career.
“But suppose they hate your story?” my thoughts asked.
“Get lost!” I snapped.
And the doubts shrank back and fled from the clapping writers.
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