It’s only 72 hours until my novel workshop at the Destination Downtown event. I’m told I could be speaking to up to 50 people about Riding with Larry Resnick and my “path to publication,” and every time I’ve thought about that in the last few days, several things have happened: my heartbeat increases, my palms start to sweat, I lose the feeling in my legs, my cheeks flush, I can hear the ocean in my ears, and my bowels loosen (I know I’m not supposed to tell you that, because then I destroy the illusion that I’ve got my compacted crackers together.)
Compounding my anxiety is the fact that I’ve got four grants due the week after the speech. Apparently, I’m trying to induce a panic attack so I can celebrate Easter in the mental health wing of Mercy Medical Center. Because I harbor a secret love for hospital jello, the smell of industrial cleaning agents, and tie-back cotton gowns.
Ever since I saw Jennifer Weiner’s reading at the Harry W. Schwartz bookstore back in October I’ve been freaking out. Nobody told me that when you become an author, you’ve also got to become a stand-up comic. She set the bar so high even Yao Ming would need to take the elevator to clear it. Her audience was laughing and clapping and listening raptly and swooning. An elderly lady in front of me had an orgasm and then passed out. People raised their hands to say, “You should be a comedian! Ever think about being a comedian? Can I be your best friend? You’re the funniest person in the universe! If you and Dane Cook had a baby the baby would make people laugh so hard they actually died!”
When she finished, the first thought to pass through my head wasn’t, “Oh, I can’t wait to tell her how much I loved Good in Bed when she signs my copy!” It was, “Holy industrial shit. I need to join Toastmasters.” I was too shy to even ask her a question. Maybe because I knew that I’d be requesting a blurb for my book later and I didn’t want her to remember me as the stammering fool who asked if she liked rainbows in belch-speak.
I’m a little like Dwight Schrute from The Office when it comes to public speaking. You know. Frozen to my chair, wheezing into a paper bag, Fight or Flight instinct in full-on Barry Bonds steroid freak-out. Anyway, Dwight won the crowd over by giving his speech the Mussolini treatment, but something tells me that women who’ve just come from a workshop on aromatherapy may not be particularly receptive to fascism and pounding on the podium. So I’m going to try the Viktor Frankl method of diffusing the tension by imagining the worst that could happen and then making fun of it. Okay. Here we go.
I could forget everything I want to say and stand there sweating with 50 sets of eyes expectantly trained on me.
Remedy: Pretend I’m Andy Kaufman simply waiting for my lip-sync line on the Mighty Mouse theme song. Note to self: bring Mighty Mouse theme song for background music just in case.
I could faint.
Remedy: Actually, you know what? This could be a good exit strategy if I forget everything I want to talk about.
I could shit my pants.
Remedy: Eat nothing but cheese for two days prior to the event. Or, I could pull a Garrison Keillor ala Wobegon Boy and wear brown pants. This is also known as the “Redcoat” approach. (Why did the British wear red uniforms during the Revolutionary War? So the bloodstains didn’t show.)
I could get one of those saliva-bubbles in the back of my throat while I read an emotionally-charged section of my book and three women in the back row will giggle.
Remedy: Acknowledge the bubble. Embrace the bubble. Make the bubble my bitch.
People could throw rotten vegetables at me. Or tickets to a Kid Rock show.
Remedy: Make compost. Utilize over-stuffed shredder purchased in a fit of organization last year.
My knees could give out, making me collapse in a sweat-soaked heap of shame on the stage.
Remedy: Tape metal rods to legs.
I’m sure I’ll think of more things that can go wrong and scar me for the remainder of my days. In the meantime, I’ve got more grant wrasslin’ to do.