Let’s talk about nerves. I’ve got ’em. The last time I did a reading it was up on a low stage lit by lights, looking out over dark rows of seats in which I couldn’t see a single face. I couldn’t sit on the stool provided because I am short and—worse—clumsy, and felt sure I’d fall. So I stood, and looked out into the dark, and read from a short story. One of my legs was shaking, but I don’t know if anyone noticed. I survived that reading with my heart still beating; evidence can be found here.
I was nervous that night, obviously.
There was another event this summer—an important meeting I had to go to—that got me so nervous I almost paralyzed myself. I remember all the hours leading up to that meeting, how hard my heart was beating in my chest and how it felt like it could give out at any moment. I thought I’d die from how scared I was. (I am far more melodramatic than you know. Oh wait, maybe I just told you.)
So, at that meeting, I was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been—ever in my whole life.
My nerves at my VERY FIRST BOOK SIGNING were somewhere between the two events mentioned above. More nervous than the reading, less nervous than the meeting. Which I guess meant I was a nerve-monster in the days leading up to the event (let’s take a moment here and pity poor E), but I didn’t think I’d die from it, so at least there’s that. And then this funny thing happened.
I walked into the store—this wonderful children’s bookstore in Manhattan called Books of Wonder—and the first thing I saw was a display showing a bunch of my books. And I realized, I am supposed to be here.
Then someone from the store escorted me to the back, and I saw my books on the table and a sign with my name, and some of the other authors were there already (eight authors were signing that day, including me), and I thought, I can do this. And then my mom was there and my friends were there and my baby sister was there and I was hugging her because if you know me you know how much I love my baby sister. And then my agent was there and we talked and it calmed me down, which is just one of the reasons I love this agent so much, there’s something about him I just trust and find very calming, and then my supportive coworkers were there, and the very first blogger who ever reviewed my book was there, and people I didn’t know were there too and I somehow wasn’t freaking out about any of it. Then I was sitting down at the table. And I looked out and there was E, straight in the line of my sight, as I wanted. I saw him there and we met eyes and I felt sure: I really can do this, no problem.
Before we were to sign books, we had to introduce them to the audience. I was sitting on the end of the table, so I was the last author to go. When it was my turn, I stood up, and I held the mic to my mouth, and I have absolutely no idea what I said here, but I clearly said something. Then I was opening my book to a pre-marked page and I was reading a short bit from it. I heard people laughing when they should be laughing, and I heard people not laughing when really they shouldn’t be laughing, and then it was over, and I’d done it, I’d survived!
I got myself into such a state of nervousness for, really, nothing. It went perfectly okay—better than okay. I think it went really well!
Thank you to everyone who made the time to stop by. I so appreciated it! And thank you especially to those who saw me through my nerves—with calm talks and sweet text messages and secret hand signals and chocolate cupcakes. The first time is probably always the hardest… I’ll be far less nervous next time.