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…