Last weekend I went to a writers’ conference with my partner in crime Katie. (Some of you know that with our powers combined, we are Blue Crow Publishing.) Appearing as “exhibitors” meant that we spent most of the weekend stationed at our table, doing a mix of mingling, crowd-watching, and talking with some amazing writers. In the slow moments, our conversation wandered towards our own book projects, new ideas, and whining about what we call “old lady pains.” 

“My sister put a hole in my head,” Katie said, pointing to her forehead. “She removed an old lady wart. The technical term is barnacle.”

“As in the hull of a ship?” I said. 

“Exactly. Like an old beat-up ship. She wouldn’t even schedule an appointment—made me plop down as soon as she spotted it. My sister is so mean.”

(For the record, Katie’s sister is a dermatologist. We’re not talking about a random person with an x-acto knife. Still.)

I told her my back hurt in weird places. She said she had to dye her hair more often to avoid “dishwater blonde.” I dyed my own hair recently, to cover up the appalling amount of gray that I know exactly who caused, and my fella said it looked “magical.” It damn well should have looked “magical” for the amount I wrote on that check to the hairdresser. (That’s the day I learned to ask “how much will this cost?” even when you trust a person with your life. And your hair.) 

Since then, the gray has come back and I’ve since decided to call them mermaid hairs. Let’s just change what we consider “magical,” shall we?

My fella and I often talk about what we’ll be like when we’re old. Will we wear ugly cardigans? Will we bark at waitresses and talk to ourselves as we wander through the house? Will we blurt out all of our thoughts like we’re earning a merit badge in ornery? 

Katie and I, sitting at that table, wondered the same thing. “Will we go out of the house wearing tacky pants because we have no one to tell us how bad they look?” she said. Who would save us from ourselves and our bad fashion choices? Would someone tell us our lipstick was too red or our hair was too blue? Would anyone tell us when we were yelling in a quiet room? Would we have to stop drinking bourbon and stop eating ice cream because our bodies were rioting against us? Things were starting to look bleak.

A couple hours later, a statuesque woman with white pixie-cut hair strode up to our table. (I’ll call her Sarah.) We asked her what she wrote, and Sarah said, “Well, I was a journalist, and I’m working on a memoir. I’m like a hundred and twelve years old, but back in the sixties I was a stringer.” This woman wore a black leather jacket, had an earring in the top of her ear. She looked like she could arm wrestle both of us and win. “Back in Miami, I was covering the fire, and I met a guy from Newsweek in a bar…”

“This story is already amazing,” Katie said. “Go on.”

The woman went on to tell us that she had been a local reporter, sent to Miami to cover a story. She’d strode right up to the guy from Newsweek and told him, “I could write for y’all,” and he said, “Okay, send me something.” She went on to tell us about her Ph.D. in Rhetoric, her research into the Loray Mill Strike of 1929 and Ella May Wiggins. “That new book about it,” she said, doing a big thumbs-down, “He didn’t do enough research. He said there wasn’t any information out there about her, but the woman had six children. Please.”

She wanted to write the real story, with her journalist’s eye. “She was a real woman,” Sarah said. “Not just some folk hero.” 

Sarah was feisty, and witty, and dropped just enough cuss words to make me smile and think of my grandmother. When she hurried off to her next session, promising to send us her manuscript, I turned to Katie. 

That is what we’ll be like when we’re old,” I told her.

“Total badasses?” she said.




Photo courtesy of Special thanks to the NCWN conference, which was a total blast to be a part of. We can’t wait to see you all at the next one.