Saturday I’ll spend the day with librarians and teachers at the lovely Bahia resort in San Diego for the annual conference of the California School Library Association. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends–Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer, Helen Foster James, Virginia Loh-Hagan, Joy Chu, Patricia Newman, Jeri Ferris, and Alexis O’Neal–and to making some new friends. Virginia (Loh-Hagan) has lined up a stellar list of luminaries. I’m comfortable with the panels, but absolutely terrified of something they’re calling “speed-dating with authors.” Virginia told us to arrive feeling “chatty.” Ah…even on a good day I’m not often chatty. I’m an observer. I think she forgot that writers are by and large shy, quiet, introverted types. I would say this is doubly true for me. I once lost a job because I was too shy to actually show up for work. During my twenty-year teaching career, which I loved, I threw up almost every morning before leaving my apartment. Even now, after years of being a visiting author, an author-in-residence, and speaking at conferences around the globe, which I know is part of an author’s job and which ultimately I enjoy, I get queasy. So if you see me at a conference standing alone against a wall or in the corner, I’m not being arrogant. Come up. Introduce yourself. Because it’s really not at all fun conversing with a wall or counting cobwebs in the corner.
Seriously, my shyness has gotten better over the years. Acting classes and therapy helped. So do tranquilizers. But I think no matter how comfortable I become with public speaking and/or engaging strangers, there will always be a moment or two of panic as I worry that I’LL HAVE NOTHING TO SAY. I’ll let you know how this speed-dating thing goes.