I began to write in my teen years. I was enamored with horror. I never outgrew my love for the chilling tales spun by Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.
Once my daughter left the single mom nest, it was my turn to realize my dreams. I would become a horror writer—an author with a capital A. Barely able to contain my excitement I looked forward to The World Horror and Fantasy Conference to be held in Providence, Rhode Island on Halloween weekend. The list of speakers read like an invitation to a roasting for Stephen King.
What to wear?
The first question any woman asks herself. My closet held nothing I deemed suitable for a horror conference, despite the fact that most of my wardrobe was black; I felt I needed something really edgy. I had attended one horror conference and knew the acceptable colors were black or black. I grabbed by purse and went in hunt of an outfit that would say mysterious lady.
Somewhere between my house and the dress shop, the strangest thing happened, I began to channel Barbara Cartland. By the time I reached my favorite boutique I had a craving for a pink dress!
I had never owned a single pink garment. I am not a pink. I am a black or a turquoise. And yet I asked the saleswoman to show me something in pink. Knowing me from my previous shopping jaunts she stepped away, perhaps fearing I had developed a case of the pink flu. Within minutes I had purchased a dress that resembled a birthday cake.
I returned home in a trance, completely enchanted by my frilly pink dress with its big lace collar. The real me would never have chosen this walking slipcover. It clearly had to be the spirit of Barbara Cartland who carefully packed the dress for the trip to Providence.
Cue the theme from The Twilight Zone.
I checked into my room at The World Horror and Fantasy Conference hotel, eager to mix and meet my fellow horror writers. I changed into the pink dress and sashayed down to the main ballroom that possessed the atmosphere of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The guests were all dressed in black, not a pastel among them except for yours truly.
The first panel discussion had just begun when I took a seat in the front row. A well-known horror author sat high on the dais chairing the panel. He began to play eye-hockey with me. I was a lone wishy-washy in an inky dark sea. When the panel was over, he rushed to my side. Perhaps there was something magical about pink?
Horror guy invited me to the hotel lounge, where for over two hours, he peppered me with questions about my life. He listened intently as if I was Elizabeth Bennet and he was Darcy. Had I left my charm dial on high? I was flattered.
No sooner had I freed myself from my new admirer than another author grabbed me for a little one-on-one. He questioned me and then listened intently to the minutest details of my life while artfully dodging questions about his own.
Pink— the new black?
Was I experiencing that one day each woman is granted once in her life? You know the one I’m talking about—the twenty-four hours between that last acne pimple and the first wrinkle, when your weight is perfect and your hair doesn’t frizz. Was this my day?
Never had so many men been interested in the infinitesimal details of my life. I returned to my hotel room and collapsed on the bed. A soft knock on the door roused me from the first wisps of sleep.
Two female horror groupies pushed their way into my room before I could rally and slam the door in their faces. One groupie placed a crumpled paper tiara on my head. The other handed me a homemade trophy.
I stood there dumbfounded, wearing the crown and clutching the trophy that appeared to be a winged Barbie doll painted in silver glitter.
“We have declared you the “Honorary B–ch” of the conference. “If you weren’t so nice, we’d hate you. Every guy here wants to spend time with you. How dare you wear pink to a writers’ conference?”
“I didn’t know. I’m sorry!” I said. “What is it about pink?”
The groupies shared a look and then studied me for long minutes. It was clear I was a newbie.
“Pink screams normal,” said the first groupie.
I cut her a blank look.
“She still doesn’t get it,” said the second. “Authors need your normalness to flesh-out their characters. Bits and pieces of your life will show up in their stories. You’ll probably be killed off in a dozen tales.”
The first groupie adjusted my tipping tiara. “You, my dear, are delicious details for these dudes.”
My pink dress had marked me as a hot new source of normal.
My lesson for the day: No matter the genre, authors are constantly on the hunt for the details of a normal life that they can weave into their stories. I took this lesson to heart as I spent years rambling through England with a notebook and a tape recorder.
I learned to button my lip and open my ears. Being a horror in pink taught me about the fine art of listening.
With love & laughter!