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Conference: COVID-Style
Stuff ‘N Nonsense 12-9-20

Oh, the joys of 2020 — and by joy, I mean, what a total Dumpster fire.

How naively I vowed 2020 would be my year to shine.

Let me share a little backstory.

So, there’s an exclusive writer’s conference — invitation only with limited slots — that I’d finally been invited to attend. When I received the acceptance e-mail, I’d danced around my living room, on Cloud Nine. This felt like the first of many signs that the pendulum was finally swinging my way after a really dark time in my professional career.

Even though I had to book a year in advance, I was over the moon with excitement; come December, I was going to be in Houston, attending my dream conference.

Cue the ominous music signaling something bad around the corner.

COVID, the ultimate villain, crashed onto the scene, wreaking havoc, destroying lives and crushing dreams.

After much deliberation, the coordinators decided to make the conference virtual.

Fast forward to today, I am one day into the virtual conference and I’m a little sad, a little relieved, and a lot overwhelmed.

I told my family, “I’m not here. I’m in Houston” but they still asked me what was for dinner, the cat still meowed at me, and I had to put everything on hold to get a COVID test for myself and my daughter (that experience is worthy of a separate column).

Now I understand why some of my fellow conference attendees booked a hotel room in their town — when you’re a mom, if you’re around, you’re available.

In the interest of saving money during Christmas, I opted to stay home.

So, here I am, locked in my room with my notepad and a fierce determination to get the most out of this experience even if it kills me.

And it just might.

Have I mentioned I have moderate to severe ADHD? And focusing on a computer screen for twelve hours of intense conference sessions is as enjoyable as repeatedly jamming my thumbs into my eyeballs? Yeah, that.

I have the utmost sympathy for kids right now trying their best to make distance learning work. I am 48 years old and I’ve spent more time doodling than taking notes for a conference I am super excited to attend (even virtually) because my brain hates to be tied to a certain task for too long. After the first session I returned to my notes with a frown. The only thing I’d written down was, “Make files” but I’d doodled a million different squiggles and flowers as well as updated my Facebook page with a new video cover page (which I’m fairly proud of) and researched how to create a new background page for my newsletter.


The frustrating part is that I really love the line-up of speakers and the coordinators have done an amazing job of making lemonade out of lemons but I am the worst kind of writer for this kind of experience.

Aside from having ADHD (which I take medication for), I’m also an extrovert, so attending a conference is also about the networking, which is where I shine. I love the energy of being around other writers, particularly super-star writers who are willing to share their methods with those who are ready to make that leap. I was looking forward to lunching with new people, trying new foods in a new city, and soaking up the ambiance of the experience.

Instead, I am home.

There’s no room service.

The cat is staring at me.

The kids are asking me what’s for dinner.

And my brain is doing some kind of salsa dance with a monkey.

It’s official: 2020 is the worst and I want a do-over.

Now, pardon me, it’s time for another session and more doodling.


Kim Van Meter is a former full-time reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she continues to provide occasional columns.