Saturday, August 20, 2016

Chance Meeting


Amrak Travel | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Traveling by train is relaxing and scenic.
One week after surgery, I knew I was not going to be able to drive myself up the Eastern Seaboard to New York City for the Writer's Digest Conference I'd been planning to attend for the past six months. So, while still relegated to my recliner for the sake of healing, I researched train tickets. According to my research, traveling by train from North Carolina to New York would be slightly quicker than driving and somewhat cheaper than flying. I purchased a roundtrip Amtrak e-ticket two and a half weeks before my big adventure.

I had only traveled by train two other times in my life — once at the tender age of 18 on the way back to North Carolina from visiting relatives in the New York area; and once with my mom a few years ago when we rode from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe during a tour-group trip to Northern California. I'm really not sure why I haven't chosen trains more often. It is a romantic, scenic, low-key way to travel – especially for a writer

When I boarded the train in Greensboro on August 11, I was running on an hour and a half of sleep. I expected to doze on the train, but I should have known better. I'm not a traveling dozer. I can't sleep in any type of vehicle. Instead, I wrote in my journal and watched the sun rise through the passing landscape. Then, when the café car finally opened, I made my way to breakfast.

As a lone traveler, I was not seated at a table alone. That would be inefficient. Rather, I was seated with another lone traveler. The gentleman with whom I was seated had a broad smile and was more than happy to share his table. He immediate asked where I was headed. I told him I was on my way to a writer's conference.

He smiled again. "I'm a writer," he said. "I'm on my way home after a book tour." He introduced himself as Zaid, we exchanged names and pleasantries over a quick handshake, and then dove into writer talk.

Over the next couple of hours, we enjoyed a leisurely, delicious breakfast and shared stories of writing, books, dreams, experiences, family and life. I bought his book, which he signed for me. He also generously offered several nuggets of wisdom. The most important of which was that of attitude when it came to my impending adventure in New York. 

Basically, he encouraged me to learn all I could, network and meet people, and use the experiences — good and bad — as stepping stones to the next levels of my writing and life. If my experiences with the agents I was about to pitch were positive, I needed to follow up and see each through to the next phase on the path toward publication. If it did not go so well, I was to learn, adjust and try again next year. Regardless, I was to always believe in myself.
Train Selfie with Zaid | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Moving trains result in blurry pictures,
but I will still cherish this as one
my all-time favorite selfies. 

We exchanged contact information, took a blurry selfie — moving trains are not the best for picture-taking — and parted ways. 

When I arrived in New York, I knew I was going to have a great experience at my first writer's conference. I knew it because I'd met an angel of sorts — a fellow writer with an amazing soul and infectious smile who made sure I was in the right frame of mind to get the most out of the experience, regardless of how well my pitch was received. 

It didn't hurt that Zaid, as he prepared to depart the train at his stop in Washington, DC, turned back toward me and said, "Look at you, you're glowing! Good things are going to happen in New York!" Then he smiled that amazing smile, turned toward the door and followed the attendant off the train.

Good things did happen in New York. Will I end up with an agent and eventually a publishing contract as a result? I don't know, yet. But I've been learning and loving life on a level I've never before experienced. And it all started with breakfast on a train with Zaid Abdul-Aziz.

And while many of you might know him as a basketball legend, I an honored to know him as a fellow writer and life mentor. Of course, it's pretty cool that he played for the Celtics back when I used to watch them with my dad, too. 

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the associate editor of Piedmont Parent and author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
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Copyright 2016 Michele Bare

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