Only Connect

Twelve Years Ago...
My first solo signing for Body Parts, my debut novel. I’m not nervous. Not at all, since I’ve taught school and performed for many years. Then I part the curtain. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers make up the sizable crowd. I freeze. Something occurs to me, a horror I should have realized earlier. Sweat breaks out on my forehead, under my pits, above my lip. My hand clenches the curtain.
“I can’t do this,” I say to Bill.
He smiles that slow, easy smile of his. His eyes are warm, assured. “Sure you can.”
“No, I can’t.”
“How come?” he says.

When I teach or conduct workshops, I’m imparting knowledge, engaging minds, fermenting discussion. I love it. Teaching feels natural and true.

When I used to perform on stage, I was a character. Daisy Mae in Lil’ Abner. (The director made me wear a pushup bra!) Ursula in Bye, Bye Birdie. Lady Macbeth. 

When I would do signings with my husband Bill, I knew that ninety-nine percent of the fans were there to see him. I reveled in his success.

But on that first solo signing of mine, it was all about me. Vicki. All those people had used their precious time and spent their valuable money on my book. And they wanted to talk about Body Parts and about me. I was the focus. Not a lesson. Not a character. Me. I shrank like a wilting flower.

With Bill’s encouragement, of course I parted the curtain. Of course I talked about the book, took questions from the audience, discussed any ol’ thing they wished. I loved it. I loved them. They talked about their favorite scenes in my book and about other authors they also loved. They told me about about their lives, too, and noted what in their lives related to my book, what novels they adored, what authors meant to them.  

I got through it. I’ve gotten through it many times. But each and every time I do a signing for one of my books, I experience that same debilitating bolt of shyness or introversion or whatever the shrinks would call it.

I suspect it will always be so.

I react the same way to blogging.

I’d be lying if I said speaking to groups about my books, about myself, hasn't gotten easier. It has. Blogging, not so much. At times, it feels self-referential and hubristic. Which stinks.

So why did I write this? Why do I even blog? Because I want to be accessible to my friends, family, fellow writers, and fans. I want to learn about them. Hear what interests them. Maybe have some back-and-forth with them—the beginnings of dialogue. I want to make a reader laugh. Or nod with understanding. Or ponder something we’ve discussed. Maybe a book or an article I write will help a fellow writer. A curious reader. A friend. And perhaps a ping will sound, and that person will think, That’s just like me.

I love connections—those threads that form the warp and weft of our lives—whether they’re in person, via email, on social media, or here.

As E.M. Forster demanded in Howard’s End, “Only connect!”

Forster’s a trip, and if you haven’t read him, I suggest you hie thee to the bookstore or library or Kindle.

And finally, let me leave this painful and self-referential stuff with another favorite quote.

I see that as truth. What about you? Do you love connections?

Some things I’ve read this week that I found interesting:
Why Jennifer Weiner is waging war on literary snobbery. I agree with her POV on the disparagement of “chick lit.” Interesting article.

The Eco Egg for Burial... Oddly compelling.

Why Writers Make Incredible Friends. Well, of course we do! Cool infographic and smile-worthy.

On the tech front: A better way to charge your phone. This guy says we’re doing it all wrong. Huh.


Posted on August 6, 2016 and filed under Writing, Creative, Passion.