Monday, November 17, 2008

Pay No Attention to the Fake Behind the Curtain

By Deborah Sharp

With a whopping month of signings and book appearances under my new-author belt, it seems like a good time to pose the question: When do I stop feeling like a pretender?

Case in point: I appeared last weekend at the mega-huge Miami Book Fair. My panel was stuck in a building that Miami Dade College actually calls "The Garage,'' but that's another story. Even if they told me to speak in a spot they call "The Bathroom,'' I would have been grateful for the invite.

My co-panelists bandied about hilarious anecdotes about Hollywood, and movie options, and musical superstars who call them at home at midnight. I told my story about the constipated reader who told me how he likes to pass time on the toilet with Mama Does Time.

Now, I did get a laugh. And these much-more-experienced authors were perfectly warm and gracious to me. (Okay, maybe one wasn't perfectly warm). Still, I felt like I was at the Book Fair under false pretenses. Like I lifted a pass to this super-exclusive clubhouse when the real owner wasn't looking. I mean, when I lunged for the last lemon poppy seed muffin left on the breakfast bar in the Authors' Hospitality Suite, I reached right past Salman Rushdie.

Salman Rushdie!

I'll admit, I'm not the most self-confident person on the planet. And, yes, I was on Today (thanks, again, to my slightly pushy TV reporter hubby). But the fact I was on that show somehow makes my raging insecurity worse. The expectations are even higher now. And I'm waiting for the moment the curtain is pulled back to reveal this faker pushing buttons and yanking levers, trying to magically create an author's cloak that fits.

So, two questions: Anybody have the name of a good therapist?
And, if it isn't just me, what was your most insecure moment as a newbie author?


Jess Lourey said...

OK, when I stop laughing enough to type...I think we're all fakes. All we do is write books. We're not nurses or global peacekeepers or garbage collectors or purveyors of any other important service. I do think when we (I) write that one book that gets it all right (for me), I'll feel legit, but in the meanwhile, we're all struggling to create that masterpiece, and so I suppose we all feel like we're not quite good enough because we haven't met our own personal standards.

Great post, Deb.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I think we all go through the pretender stage, especially at first when we're on panels with much more accomplished authors. I've had two really standout moments of "arrival." The first came when I was signing next to Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark and in a lull (mine, not theirs), Carol turned and introduced herself to me, saying she'd wanted to meet me. Me????

The other came shortly after when I was at a large conference. I was giving directions to someone and behind me I heard a small group of women whispering "THAT'S Sue Ann Jaffarian." I almost peed myself and had to really struggle not to act like a dork.

Salman Rushdie? How cool is that?!

G.M. Malliet said...

I don't think we ever get past the stage of feeling like a fake. If I ever heard someone whisper behind my back, "That's G.M. Malliet," I would assume they were pointing me out as some kind of cautionary tale: Don't let this happen to you!

Wait until you've "done" a few book clubs. They are always so gracious and excited to have a "real" author appear. You feel like a mega-fraud. I've thought of concocting a "real writer" costume for these occasions. A smoking jacket and pipe maybe. Thick glasses with big dark frames. Ink-stained fingers. A golden retriever by my side. Think any of this would help?

Keith Raffel said...

Who was the not-so-nice author? Do tell. No, wait. That would be gossip and we authors would never stoop to that....

G.M. Malliet said...

Keith - I've got one not-so-nice author and the name would surprise you. And I'm not telling. Not ever. Nope, nuh uh. Well, maybe in person I'll tell you.

Deborah Sharp said...

the not-so-nice one ... hmmmm.. we'll leave that revelation until late one night at a convention somewhere (where, undoubtedly, I won't be the ONLY one feeling like a fake!)
Thanks, guys!

Mark Combes said...

My midwestern up bringing doesn't allow me to be anything but self conscious about self promotion. It's a weird deal for sure - to sit in front of people and tell them about something you aren't sure you really understand yourself.

So, my most insure moment? Every time I come out from behind my desk and have to speak about myself or my writing. And I suspect it will be forever so....