Nina Gaby

Essays, art, and healthcare

The Most Horrible Person in the World Goes to a Writer’s Conference



My coffee this morning is in the “Write Like a Motherfucker” mug that my friend that I’m jealous of got me from the last writer’s conference we went to, before this one. It was a gift and she gave me a gift because she did not know yet what a horrible person I am. I either write like a motherfucker or not at all. Because we are all going to die. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I will spend this morning writing for my blog that nobody reads. See where this is going?

I have been having a small, personal festival over the past week. A pity party we might call it at work. I work with addicts and we toss around phrases like that all the time. Usually I hate them, the phrases that is, I love the addicts. They are my tribe and I can help them with my expertise, my script pad, my humor, my success stories. I am at least competent there. I teach them Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, “CBT”. And like the Paul Simon song “Rewrite” or the Vivian Gornick book about situations and stories, just change your story line, man, and you’ll feel just fine. How’s that going for you, I ask myself. Not so hot, I answer, as the list of complaints against the self rolls merrily along.

“You self actualized too early,” a old boyfriend cited Maslow to me in 1975. He looked just like Woody Allen, I swear, which was pretty cool back then. “It’s a set up.” I didn’t know any better, and my first career as a clay artist came easy, every gallery I approached wanted my stuff, I sold every piece I made, they clamored for more, and I ended up with vases in the permanent collection of American Craft at the Smithsonian. Then I went to a hotshot university for a nursing degree, won awards, got a free Master’s Degree, great jobs doing good work, and as much as I complain now, “poor me I did 45 hours of work in three days…” well that means I get four days off to write! It’s not that I didn’t learn my craft (one morning I threw 500 one-handed bowls, Japanese style, on the potters wheel and would not let myself keep a single one, I suffered harshly through Organic chemistry and worse through Research methods) but at least I was in charge of where it was all going. Even my sobriety came easy. I just stopped drinking. Yeah the withdrawals could have been life-threatening, but I didn’t know it then. I even cold-turkeyed cigarettes after smoking a pack a day of Marlboros since the age of 13. I am a lucky girl. One might say determined. Yes, that too.

So I go to this writer’s conference in Mississippi. Where everyone is charming and I’m anxious because of the red/blue problems, I have preconceived ideas. I remember visiting my aunt in Nashville every summer. I am the daughter of a liberal Jewish very northeastern set of parents, my father a writer whose short story about southern graft got him on Alfred Hitchcock and then a screenplay bastardized into the cult classic Hot Rods to Hell. I remember my aunt and her friends, whenever they were ready to dish mercilessly about someone, would start with… “Well bless her precious little heart….”. At the conference I am very mad at myself for not writing an essay for the Creative Non Fiction contest “Southern Sin,” but then the winner of the contest reads his essay on Friday evening and I am very glad I didn’t even try. He was brilliant. During the conference the friend I am with, talented and young, finds out she won a teaching award. She has just gotten several pieces published. Everyone clamors for her memoir proposal. She reminds me of me, how must it have felt for my friends back when I was winning everything. But I don’t care. I am jealous. Then I get an e-mail that a piece that I’ve just submitted to Rumpus (the Write Like a Motherfucker people) has just been rejected and I can’t sleep. Then Facebook announces that my best friend from nursing school has just gotten an amazing thing (not at liberty to describe) AND she has just developed her own App for patient education. I have done none of those things. I hate myself and everybody else. I am not consoled by my own publication list. I am not consoled by the godfather of the genre of creative non fiction telling me I’m a great writer, the proof being that he selected my piece to go into one of his collections. I am not consoled by listening to the esteemed conference panel discuss the years they put into their success. One panelist reminds us to write because we are going to die. I’m going to die a whole lot sooner than the friend I am jealous of.

But I am buoyed by the charm and sweetness of the southern way, it’s like an immersion into CBT, just being nice, it feels good. And so I bounce along, my horribleness known only to me. Till now. One gentleman who I’d call pretty “red” talks about marbling, the red and the blue, we’re marbles. He literally embraces my conflicted northern self. I want to move down there, maybe I’d become a better person. But it’s muggy most of the year and my mascara and my masquerade would wear thin quickly.

So now you know. And this writing thing, well it is hard. I was set up, as the old boyfriend warned. But there’s no choice. So after a week of heavy partying (pity, that is) and too much TV, I’m still at it, bless my precious little heart.

12 thoughts on “The Most Horrible Person in the World Goes to a Writer’s Conference

  1. Wonderful piece, Nina. Funny, sweet, witty rant. Just like you. 😉

  2. Welcome to my world. I’ve been the queen of pity parties for quite some time, Nina. And growing up in the South has only exacerbated that. Rant on, beautiful woman. Because that’s what you are, you know? Everyone (including me) at the conference in Oxford wanted to be you. We wanted your gorgeous hair and smile and fashion style. We wanted your kick-ass writing and your warm, healing personality. So rant on. We all do that at times. But once the rant is over, you know what you must do. FUCKING WRITE! (and love yourself)

  3. As usual, your piece left me chuckling and again, amazed at your writing skills. I loved this post but when I went to press “LOVED” I only found a “like”… how disappointing. You are an awesome writer and don’t for one second get sidetracked with thoughts about rejection or NOT being published. You have much too much talent for that. Keep up the great work so you can treat the world with your words that never fail to make us interested, laugh, cry, ponder, and feel uplifted as little people!! 🙂 Carol

  4. P.S. Don’t even start with the Southern stuff, because I have an entire novel in my head about my experiences of moving from Rochester to SWAINSBORO, GA… you can just imagine…. HaHa… Carol (Cornwell) Strickland, that is…

  5. Write it I mean. But you can certainly write MIT if you want to. Arggh autocorrect!

    • OMG I was just looking up what MIT meant in computer lingo!!!!!! Is that not hysterical?? I couldn’t even write the stuff I have in my head… the south still believes the civil war is going on… and I’m not kidding. I try to lay low because I’m a YANKEE~~~ Hahaha..

  6. This is why I have been in love with you since I met you!

  7. Hilarious! Wanna write a guest blog for me? Somebody might read it…mabye not, but WTF …we’re all going to die, right? Hilarious!

    • I tried to reply to you, but it didn’t register. Even the internet doesn’t want me words. Yes. I will guest blog but don’t expect much response. LOL.

  8. Pingback: Mental Health Monday: Thanks, Sugar! @

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