Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Aaaawwwwww, Freak Out!

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.




    my bowels loosen when I'm nervous too. what a pain in the ass! literally.

  2. Um, you're kidding right? You're actually worried about being funny? I think you could do that in your sleep. If not, just write your whole speech out as a blog post and then read it. :)

  3. Anytime I have had to do any public speaking (although nothing on this scale) I have usually just tried to forget about it until the last minute. OK I usually end up talking crap but at least I did not worry about the fact that I might talk crap.

  4. You're going to be fantastic.

    And I agree with Kristen...write it as a blog post. In fact, if you just read this blog post, you'll be smashing.

    And a little mass bowel evacuation is always good for a slice-o'-cheesecake excuse later on. You know, to make up the lost calories. If the evaculation happens in front of an audience, just turn on a Kitaro CD and call it performance art.

    Really, you'll be swell!

  5. How does that trick go?... imagine yourself naked. Yeah, that's it. That should take your mind off the audience.

  6. Oh Jess! I wish I could come and be of support. You are like the FUNNIEST blogger ever, but I understand it's hard to translate that into "in person" and seemingly impromptu talk ... just write a post and take it with you. You crack me up.

  7. Jess, I have no doubt in my mind that you are going to knock em dead. (And not with the stench of - oh never mind.)

    That old lady in the front row will be having a double O and then some. And everyone else? "Can I be your bestest, best friend? Oh please, pick me, pick me." They will be at your feet.

  8. Jess, you will be great--inspiring and hilarious. Not to mention, everyone'll remember to buy a book.

  9. Well, I would love to hear your speech, (again...totally envious of impending publication) and I wouldn't laugh if you bubbled from either end. I'd just be thanking my lucky stars it wasn't me up there! That didn't help, did it??

    I've just "met" you, but if you write speeches as well as blogs, you don't have a damned thing to worry about.

  10. I'm jumpin' on the Jess Train, here, to say you are fab and I wanna be your best friend. pickmepickmePICKME. ;-) Knock 'em dead. We know you can!

  11. The only time someone shouuld be nervous about public speaking is when they don't have an effing clue what they're talking about - but this is stuff you know! Easy as frickin' pie. As Rob Schneider would say...You can do it!

  12. OK... Here's what you do:

    1. Picture everyone in chicken suits.
    2. Picture everyone naked.
    3. Bring along a naked person.
    3. Practice the question/answering game with someone and then make sure they go so you can focus on them during awkward moments.
    4. Or make sure you plug them with all kinds of questions that you've already practiced the answers to.
    5. Or compliments if the crowd gets ugly.

    RELAX. You'll do great!

  13. A few ideas (and feel free to use none of them):

    1. bring a BFF or your hubs, so that right before you go on they say to you in dramtic fashion, "PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, WOMAN!" and slaps you in very soap opera-like. hey, it works on tv.

    2. begin your speech with "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ear...sssss...wait a, wha, this *isn't* shakespeare in the park day. I'm gonnna f*cking *kill* my agent."

    2a. start, "'To be! or' .....LINE!"

    3. imagine the scene from The Producers w/ Gene Wilder: "I'm hysterical with hysteria!...(water on face) I'm wet! I'm hysterical and I'm wet!...(slapped) OW! I'm in pain! I'm in pain, and I'm wet, and I'm still hysterical! " bit and thank god you're not that guy.

    Oh, right, speaking of - anything with Nazis always gets a laugh.

    or you could just read your book. Your call. Good Luck!

    (p.s. i did not know that about the britains' red coats. your site is so educational!)

  14. You? Worried about being funny? Surely you jest.

    And yes, when all else fails, make the bubble your bitch.

    Go get 'em!

  15. I've been to author signings/readings and very few of them were that funny. All you have to do is read something, anything, from your book, from your blog. Just read it. People are coming to see you because you're a writer not a speaker. You are so funny that it's funny that you don't know that you're funny. Huh?

    Snap out of it!

  16. A couple of glasses of wine..... I know how that helps YOU relax. Suggestion- courtesy of a true member of "Women Who Wine".

  17. Two words: Malt Liquor.

  18. What will really happen:

    You'll read from your book. You'll make them laugh.
    Everyone will comment how beautiful, poised and intelligent you are.
    When it's over, you'll drink a half a bottle of metamucil to rid yourself of cheese residue.

  19. You'll be great!

    I'm a little confused... Are you going to eat nothing but cheese for 2 days to AVOID shitting your pants? Or do you want to shit your pants? Because... never mind. It's TMI.

  20. lol the picturing everyone naked never works for me!! However it could be quite comical if you tell them you are picturing them naked!!

    You are going to rock!

  21. You'll do great at the reading! I just wish I could get an agent to get a publisher to get a book to get a reading! :)

    My normal blog is here

    but my best-seller blog is here
    any advice you could share would be much appreciated.

  22. I've always liked it when speakers or famous people consult some kind of weird note-taking paper (like a torn napkin, envelope, arm) when moving between topics. Adds something real, kinda funny and interesting to the whole talk. Of course, those three things could be said of someone who shit their pants too. Good luck.

  23. Dude, duh, picture them naked. Oh, wait, a raging case of the giggles might not help you either. Sorry, I got nothing!

  24. Imagine everyone naked wearing nothing but sock garters and those Donald Trump wigs you have left over from your party.
    Break a leg!

  25. Anonymous8:10 PM

    Draw power from the nerves. Great fuel, you know.

    There is no doubt that


  26. Oh Jess! You've got nothing to worry about! Think of this as popping your book signing cherry. The more of these you do, the more experience you'll gain & pretty soon you'll be a pro, just like Jen Weiner was. You'll do great. :) I'm getting my taxes done Saturday, or I'd come & lend support. Also, who nudged you @ Jen's reading & said, "This will be you soon!"??? Who? Hoo Hoo? hahaha I love being right. You're gonna be great. I promise.

  27. one word...xanax...always helped me with public speaking.

    i'm sure you'll do great. if you are half as entertaining as you blog than you will knock them silly and if all else fails you can go through your list of nervous speaking thoughts as a warm up. that should do the trick. you will have them at hello!

  28. Honestly I can totally understand the whole public speaking fear anxiety thing but come on!!! YOUR FUNNY!

    I'd have to agree with your other commenter's, your too funny to well NOT be funny. In fact I love this blog so much and savor your funny stories, that I re-read them. Yes I admit. I read it in the morning and come back at night. It's sick. In fact your humor kind of reminds me of Jennifer Crusie (if you don't like her, I don't care lol), your both just too funny.

    I know I'm coming into this late and I'm probably just not observant but what kind of book did you write and when can I get it?

    I am a little sick that I don't live near by so I can come see you speak. You'll be great, I hope someone records you.

    Have a nice time, you will be fantastic. I KNOW IT!

  29. Just be yourself and you can't go wrong. You keep me interested everyday and I'm a stranger.

    Good luck!

  30. Jess, I adore you. "Shit your pants"....*snicker*.

    You will be marvelous!!! And, if it makes you feel any better any all, when you think of yourself speaking to those 50 people, consider that in May, I will be delivering my 12th annual teen pregnancy speech to approximately 300 high school kids who think they know everything. Do you remember how mean high school kids are?

  31. Jess, if you can write a HILARIOUS post like this, you're not going to have any problems. :)

    Wish I could be there! I'll be sending good vibes your way, though.

  32. I'm so jealous! How about this? I will come and I will BE you? I want to be a published author, even if I just get up and speak like one.

    You will be fine. Seriously, I would write your entire speech out and then read it over and over. I always script EVERYTHING.

  33. If all else fails, take a page from "Wild Kingdom" and start throwing poop.

  34. What everybody else said.

    BTW, is it just me, or is this blog getting funnier and funnier?

  35. You should just pull the Mussolini routine. Worked on the office, right?

    You will be fantastic. Let me be number 35 in your fan club here to assure you as much.

  36. OK, I missed it and I know it already happened -- but I'll echo what other people said and say, "You were worried about being funny???" I sit here and snort beverages out of my nose whenever I read your posts. Even if I'm not drinking anything at the time.