Fortunately, it only took but a few familiar faces in the crowd to get comfortable. Later during the show, it was clear to me that there was probably no audience I'd rather be in than among the writers, publishers and other litteratti present from the literary community.
I was not only among them, I am one of them. I was, after all, an invited presenter. Not until the following day did I realize that few in the theatre knew as many of those present as I did (considering that I'm not formallly a member of the Lambda Literary Foundation).
The internal feeling transformed from dread over what I had not done in recent years to the re-energizing to write, with so many of my literary heroes, mentors and peers together in one place.
To have known so many of those honored much less present is a most rarest of gifts and an indescribable inspiration.
The thrill to be in the company of this comunity could not be easily described in words --so counterintuitive given that is words which bind us.
The past, the present and the future of are --at this moment, at least-- all connected.
How often and when again, will I sit next to Patricia Nell Warren, dishing in the back of the theatre? How many of those most respected in attendance had I worked with over the years; introduced, hosted, interviewed?
I coud even be amused when Michael Corbett, the master of ceremonies, pronounced my name incorrectly and read my bio wrong, identifying me as a "founder" of BLK magazine. Only a few in the audience might have been in on that private joke, fortunately.
I was not only in attendance at this event, and among my peers, but invited to sit at the captain's table, as it were. And I belonged there.
There was a sense, later, that I was looking forward, as opposed to being in danger of becoming Lot's wife by loooking over my shoulder. The overwhelming number of pioneers honored in memoriam --and the scattered grey-hairs in the crowd, along with the fresh faces-- added a sense of immediacy in ensuring that I get my work completed.
Does every writer have this self-imposed sense of isolation? How do we create a sense of community, when there are so few occasions when we are all gathered together? It's been a long time since a writer's conference on the West Coast, or a less formal gathering of so many attending.