(Karen Grencik on the left, me on the right)
As most kid lit authors know, last weekend was SCBWI's annual summer conference in Los Angeles. I wasn't registered, but my agent, the lovely Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary, was there. She hosted a gathering in her room on Saturday night for Red Fox clients and other kid lit folks. Since I live only 45 minutes away, I drove down to meet her. We've talked on the phone and through emails, but I've never met her in person.
Enter Freak Out Mode. I was totally nervous. Not so much about meeting Karen, because anyone who's met her knows how approachable, kind, warm, and generous she is. I'm never afraid to email her or ask a stupid question. No, I was nervous about the little party.
When my family and close friends read this, they'll spit out their coffee in laughter. Once you know me well, you can't shut me up. Just ask my husband. But put me in a social situation where I don't know a soul, and I'm like matchy matchy curtains that blend into walls. Those awkward teens I write about? I can totally relate to them. (btw, I avoided parties in high school, too)
I managed to speak to some wonderful people, and enjoyed my time with Karen. But I'll share a secret with you: when I left the hotel, I was relieved. Big crowds, strangers, talking on cue--all of that leaves me shaking in my flip flops. Everyone says this conference is wonderful, but to me, it's overwhelming and scary. Maybe someday I'll conquer this pesky fear.
But you know what? Reclusive writers aren't the only people who get butterflies. Remember my amazing agent? She wrote this great post: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED--A Dog-Loving Introverted Homebody Scales Mt. McKinley! Her title alone summed up my own fears. Agents are human. They have their own hopes and dreams. And yes, they get nervous, too.
Thankfully there have been plenty of reclusive writers who've managed to do just fine. And these days, writers have the benefits of social media. We meet behind a screen, where we don't have to fake-smile and say something witty on the fly. We aren't having conversations where one of us looks bored and makes excuses to talk to someone else. These are real social fears, and for me, these fears are erased with blogging, tweeting, and connecting on Facebook.
Do I wish I could walk into a room and command an audience? Sure! Will that ever happen? Um, probably not. But it helps to know I'm not alone in this. Approachable agents--and I'm sure editors and multi-published authors, too--sometimes experience the same fears we feel. I find comfort in that.
Tell me, are you the type who breezes into a social situation and feels no fear? Are you witty in person and on the page? (If so, I'm green with envy) Are you like me, and freak out at the mere thought of standing in a room full of strangers? How do you cope?
Were you there last weekend, and one of the people I was terrified of? Do tell!