An imposter with a pen

I’m glad I can bang on the keyboard with my two fingers right now, rather than be forced to write with a pen. While my penmanship has always been awful, my main concern right now is not the ‘readability’ of my handwriting, but the shakiness of my hand. This is because last night I didn’t get any real sleep.

No, I was not busy ‘trying out’ all the wonderful new toys and functions on OT (what is a “widget”, anyway, an upside down midget?—not to mention Quora). I was lying awake in bed wondering what on earth I am going to say at my very first book signing this afternoon at The Bookworm, a wonderful private-owned bookstore here in Omaha, Nebraska.

I am not usually given to excessive nervousness over seminars, teaching classes, etc. In fact, I have given my share of them, and at this stage of my career, while I always succumb to a few stressful moments at the very beginning of any lecture, I don’t normally fret about it until I am up at the podium. But this time it’s different—I feel like an imposter. There are actually some parallels to a situation in my recent post “Informal Science”, where I describe my first day as a new assistant professor and hear someone call out “Dr. Caplan”, but can’t quite fathom how my pediatrician father has arrived on the scene.

Rationally, I know that I am not an imposter (correct me if I’m wrong!)—but nonetheless, I can’t shake that feeling I am going to be discovered for what I am—a scientist pretending to be an author.

Another key difference from anything else I’ve previously experienced in my scientific work, is that this time, it’s personal. True, fiction authors can always retreat to the “No comment-like status” of claiming that, after all, this is only fiction. The fact that no one actually believes me when I say that, and that they are constantly “figuring out” whom my characters represent, is a side-effect of this profession, I’m afraid.

Well, I’ve gathered my immediate family for support—so at least someone will be there. And I’m doing what I always do when concerned that I am ‘out of my element’—I’m practicing. I’ve received some solid advise through one of the Lablit forums, and I have prepared a list of things to say: when and how I came to write the book, what inspired it, a few witty (I hope!) anecdotes, etc.

I’ve also prepared a short passage to “read”—a section that I consider to be humorous (we shall see!). Interestingly, I practiced reading it—even went as far as having my daughter record it on video (yes—an obsessive-compulsive control freak) so I could see for myself how this looks. My prime observation—I need to look less at the ‘audience’ and at least look down at the book now and then to pretend that I am reading the passage and not declaring it from memory. After all, it’s a “book reading”, not a drama class. That’s what I get for taking 13 years to publish it—I could join Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” heroes, the ones dedicated to keeping books alive (when they were being burned) by committing entire novels to memory.

Well, enough said. “Duty calls”, said Mr. Wickham, so off I go. I still have a few hours left to practice—reading rather than reciting…

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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11 Responses to An imposter with a pen

  1. Stephen says:

    Welcome as a regular on OT, Steve. I wouldn’t worry about feeling an impostor. We’re all impostors around here, of one type or another. And good luck with the book signing!

    BTW – thanks for the link above, though you may want to tidy up the url… 😉

  2. cromercrox says:

    Don’t worry, Steve. It seems to be a common anxiety – the feeling that one might only be allowed to do a job (particularl if it’s something one enjoys) provided one isn’t ‘found out’. Jenny has also been very supportive of m own LabLit efforts, and tjose of anyone else who ventures into this particular genre.

    I’ve been an editor at your favourite weekly professional science magazine beginning with N for almost a quarter of a century, but I still don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up.

  3. cromercrox says:

    BTW, I know another author based in Omaha – a talented young author of SF and fantasy called Shelly Li. I am proud to have bought the very first story she sold commercially. She was only 15 at the time.

  4. steffi suhr says:

    Good luck with the reading, Steve! I am sure you’ll feel wonderful when it’s over and you have the first one in the bag 🙂

  5. chall says:

    Good luck on the reading and hope it goes well with “looking like you are reading and not reciting”. Then again, why wouldn’t you recite it since you wrote it and probably stared at those sentences longer than anyone else 🙂

    To me it’s an inspiration to see/read all people who can have one job doing what they like (science) and then add on a writing passion and get it published (in contrast to only have it in a drawer/folder on the computer)! All the best!

  6. Impostor syndrome is ubiquitous so there’s no point fretting. I suspect the only people who don’t suffer from it are probably the ones who perhaps should! hope you had a wonderful book signing and are now feeling more confident as an author. I look forward to hearing more about this on your blog.

  7. Jenny says:

    I’m sure you’ll knock ’em dead, Steve. Do let us know how it goes!

  8. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Good luck, Steve!

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