Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Conference…

As Mary mentioned, I was a workshop leader at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference a couple of weeks ago, where I taught a six day class on writing children’s novels.

Okay, you can stop laughing now. I really did! Me, Madame Introvert taught a six day class. In front of people! Very highly intelligent and creative people! And they were looking at me!

Very odd behavior for an introvert. Or maybe not.

I will confess, there were a couple of horrible moments. The worst moment was the opening of the conference, when all the workshop leaders were required to give a two minute introduction/speech describing their workshop.

Most. Painful. Two. Minutes. Ever.

So I talked really fast, pretended to make eye contact while really only staring at people’s foreheads, and got it over with in under 45 seconds. AND managed to NOT trip while leaving the stage, something a surprising number of people did. (It was an awkwardly set up stage.)

Another painful moment was the staff party where all the staff and agents and editors from the conference get together for a social hour. In true introvert style, I am SO not a party goer. But I girded my loins and sallied forth to do my duty.

I was only one of two new teachers on a staff of about 45, so again, total nightmare, everyone else knew everyone there. So I forced myself to walk up to two very nice women and introduce myself and just talk. Gawd it was hard! Especially because it turned out they were agents. But see, once I remembered I had a perfectly good agent and am not in the market for a new one, talking to them became much more comfortable. And they were equally happy to have someone to talk to, since they had just been trying to talk themselves into mingling. Even agents have a hard time mingling at parties. Who knew?

The third most awkward moment was walking into the farewell breakfast, a room full of 500 people, all at tables with their closest and most treasured friends. Well, okay. Maybe not closest and most treasured, but it sure seemed that way. It brought back the memory of every middle school dance I ever attended, clinging to the wall, simultaneously wishing and dreading someone would ask me to dance.

But I did manage to snag someone I’d met and ask if her table was full, and was invited to sit down and had a lovely time.

But why-oh-why would I put myself in the direct line of so much awkwardness?

Because I love to teach workshops. Yep. Me, an officially registered, card-carrying introvert loves teaching. Even though it means I stand up in front of a room full of people and they stare at me.

See, workshops aren’t about me, they’re about writing. Craft. Stretching oneself. Learning the tricks of our writerly trade. And that is something I can talk for hours about with just about anybody.

Which is just a long way of saying that many times, even as introverts, we have comfort zones that we can use to connect with other writers and industry professionals.

Sometimes it just takes a while to find them…


jama said...

Robin-- what an inspiring post! I could SO identify with everything you went through. You are absolutely right about how one's self-consciousness disappears when the focus is on a subject you truly love and feel comfortable talking about. But getting the nerve to get up in front of the group and start the ball rolling is something else (that's where serious booze comes in):)

Anonymous said...

Robin, I'm so glad you didn't trip! And yes, serious booze would have to be on the itinerary. Five hundred people? I’d rather get a hysterectomy!

Kimberly Lynn

Mary Hershey said...

OOOooohh! Even this picture could make an "I" start sweating. I love it's perspective-- eeekkk!

Such a great entry, Robin. And, a point that we can't make enough, and I need to keep learning. Watch your focus. Put it on others. It's about them. Don't let it be about you.

Honor your self-consciousness and then let it go, even if just for one minute at a time.

What a bunch of dang lucky writers that just got to have YOU for six days!!!


Stephanie Humphreys said...

I totally relate. I love to teach, but the idea of actually doing it in front of people makes me ill. And introducing myself to strangers, forget it. Funny thing, once I do it, I end up enjoying myself.