It’s been at least five years since I attended my very first writers’ conference. I was much younger then. A wide-eyed hopeful, soaking in as much information as I could. Good thing I didn’t know how much I didn’t know.

This February, I’m attending the Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego. And I’m going one better. I’m ready (I think) to submit my novel for an advance reading. I feel a little bit like a novice swimmer who insists on jumping into the deep end of the pool.

I’ll mail two copies of the first 10 pages of my labor of love, creativity and frustration to an editor/agent of my choice. As a mom of three, it’s sorta like sending my kid off to camp for the first time. I think I’ve prepared him well enough, but I won’t know for sure until he comes back.

And what can I expect for my additional $50 fee. “This is a unique opportunity to receive substantive one-on-on evaluation of your work,” says the brochure. At the very least, I’m expecting a professional, impartial, real-world review of my novel.

I hope I’m ready for that. But the phrase: “If you don’t want the answer, don’t ask the question” continues to roll through my mind.