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All outdoor nature photos on this page are of Jenny Lake except for the shot of the Snake River taken as I left Jackson. valley bookstore

Tuesday, 6/26/01 - Sunday, 7/1/01 - Beautiful Days in Jackson, WY

On TuesdayI took care of some writing business in the morning then hopped on my bike and set out to take some photographs nearby. Then I loaded the Berts into our rental car and headed into town for my booksigning.

The Valley Bookstore was situated right in the heart of town in a small shopping complex called Gasoline Alley. I sat at a table in the "alley" outside the store, and said hello to passerbys. Sold a few books and met a woman named Heather who was in Jackson to attend the same writers conference I was. snake river

On Wednesday, I attended some of the 9th Annual Jackson Hole Writers Conference but could already see that it was very casual (a little disorganized?) and I decided to do some outdoorsy things in between a workshop or two.

So Thursday afternoon, I went whitewater rafting with the Sands company and a wacky boat guide named Parker or P-Dog, as he liked to be called. That night, had a nice meal at the Snake River Grill. jenny lake

On Friday went hiking at Jenny Lake. It was so beautiful and a nice, manageable hike around half of the lake, about 2 miles. Then a boat took everyone back across the lake to where we had started.

After that, I went to the writer's conference for a workshop on magazine writing. I was surprised how casual it was - the panelists confessed they hadn't really prepared anything. Hmmmmm...

On Saturday, started off early, getting to the Snake River Kayak and Canoe School at 8:30am for my very first-ever kayak ride. The trip went down the same river as the whitewater rafting trip, an 8 mile stretch on the Snake River through some modest rapids with names like the Big Kahuna, the Lunch Counter and the California Curl. me at lake

Afterward, I went back to the writer's conference for another workshop, this time about the "Personal Narrative." I mentioned the struggle I've been having working on my next book - about my RV travels - and got some encouragement from the panelists to just write it all down and worry about it later. Write, write, write!

That evening, checked out the local rodeo before heading back to KOA. I've really enjoyed the KOA Teton Village - good location, nice sites, great staff - they really made me feel welcome and were so informative. The owners, Art and Debra, were a totally cool couple who had created the best life for themselves with the campground in the summer and a home in Florida in the winter. They really made this KOA a standout, and I've been to a bunch of them to be able to compare.

Sunday was the last day of the writers conference. Even though I didn't attend a lot of the program, I did feel I got something out of it. Particularly Sunday morning when the students read some of their work. Several days earlier, I had signed up to do a reading - something I'd never done with my own personal essays or fiction - and I was determined to do it. jenny lake

When I got there, instead of reading from the list (I was 11th), they allowed people to raise their hands to go next. What?? There was no way I'd raise my hand. The list was going to force me to get up on stage and suddenly, it became a volunteer situation.

I listened to others read, fretting about raising my hand, wondering if the piece I chose - a wry essay about my love for my RV - was good enough, interesting enough, funny enough. Would people like it? Would they laugh? Or would they listen politely, applaud politely, but secretly be glad they weren't me? jenny lake

Overcome with self-doubt, which is so strange since I lecture regularly in front of hundreds of people, I ran to the bathroom. Another student was washing her hands. "Are you going to read?" I asked her. "Sure. Are you?" I confessed to her how nervous I was and that I was debating whether or not I should read. "Do it!" she urged, "What have you go to lose? The way I look at it, I'll never see any of these people again. Just go for it!"

The pep talk worked and I returned to the meeting room ready to raise my hand. Then a man got up to read his book-in-progress about the Holocaust. The piece was really well done and I burst into tears and ran back to the bathroom. After splashing water on my face, I remembered the words of the other writer "Just go for it!" jenny lake

Back at the meeting room, I raised my hand and was finally called on to read. I sucked in my breath and walked purposefully toward the stage and climbed up to the lecturn. Then I exhaled and began to read. I was talking, really, because I guess I tend to write like I talk, and it was much easier than I thought. My time was up before I finished the piece but was able to come to a good stopping point. Everyone applauded. Afterward, I realized that everyone had also been laughing throughout.

"I don't know why you were nervous - that was great!" said the woman from the bathroom. I thanked her for her encouragement. Overall, about 15 people came up to me telling me how much they enjoyed my piece and my performance, asking if I was a professional actress, telling me I should be on radio, all kinds of amazing, generous compliments. I felt so much better having done the reading, and all of these kind words were icing on that creative cake.

Later that afternoon, I went horseback riding by Teton Village and I marvelled at how at one moment, I'm on stage reading my writing and taking a creative risk and then at another moment, I'm in a forest on horseback, getting in touch with my outdoorsy side. jenny lake

I like the balance I'm finding, a feeling that I'm finally acknowledging the two most powerful sides of my personality. I'm honoring myself in ways I don't think I was capable of in my 20s and not willing to do in more recent years, for fear of failure or of bitter disappointment, for fear of the unknown or of being alone.

Now, fear blends into excitement, a wonder-filled alchemy that is shaping who I am, who I've always been, who I want to be. This 9-month (and counting) journey has really taught me more about myself than the last 20 years of my life. As corny as it sounds, I do FIND myself out here, bit by bit, piece by piece, and the full picture is awesome.

My new mission: To get every person - particularly every woman - to take a solo adventure!

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