Why Attending RT is not a Vacation

If I figured out how to use WordPress’s scheduler correctly, this post will be appearing while I’m at the RT Booklover’s Convention in Chicago, IL. (Technically, it’s in Rosemont, IL, but “Chicago” is close enough.)

When I tell non-writer people that I’m going to a convention, they generally assume this means I’m going on a vacation. (I suspect many writers who either don’t go to conventions themselves or don’t consider writing their career make the same assumption.) But while I’m really looking forward to going to RT and plan to have a lot of fun while I’m there, it is most definitely not a vacation for me.

Part of the reason is that I have a lot of actual business to attend to while I’m there. I’ll be meeting with my editor and with my agent; I’ll be going to a couple of dinners with my publishers; I’ll be sitting on a couple of panels; I’ll be doing the massive, three-hour book signing; and I’ll be participating in Teen Day on Saturday. These are all non-vacation activities, but they aren’t what makes RT so much work for me.

I am the stereotypical introverted writer. I write from home and spend most days alone in my office with only occasional forays into the outside world. I’ve never loved talking on the phone, so I communicate via email whenever possible, and when I’m with a large group of people–or even a small group, if the group contains anyone extraverted–I tend to listen way more than I talk. So just try to imagine the sensory overload that going to a convention the size of RT creates. Thousands of people, with nonstop socializing, for at least four days in a row.

So that’s a little stressful, but it’s something all introverts who go to RT must face. Now imagine being an introverted author. If you’re there as a reader, you are free to sit quietly and listen to conversations with no pressure to participate. But if you’re there as a professional author, a big part of the reason you’re there is to interact with your readers and network with other authors and publishing professionals. Which means sitting quietly in a corner–or retreating to your room–is counterproductive. I can’t wave a magic wand and turn myself into an extravert, but when I’m at RT, I do my best to pretend I am one. I approach people and talk to them, all the time fearing that they will find me dull, or that my natural shyness will lead to one of those awkward silences we all hate, or, even worse, that I’ll say something stupid or ill-advised. When I leave a conversation, my inner critic insists on dissecting everything I said, as well as the nuances of how others reacted to what I said. That inner critic is exacting, and there’s no living up to her standards.

The inner critic gets even more fierce when I’m interacting with a Famous Author. What, you think only the fans are in awe of the Famous Authors? Believe me, I am, too. It doesn’t matter that I’ve met some of the Famous Authors many times before, or that they’re nice people, or that, in some cases, I know they’re introverts, too. I still feel like I have to be extra witty and interesting when I’m in their presence. I worry that I’ll come off like a desperate wannabe. I worry that nothing I have to say could possibly be as interesting and important as what the Famous Author is saying. I worry that I’ll seem rude or pushy if I try to inject myself into the conversation, and then I’ll worry that I seem stuck up and aloof if I don’t. It’s a never ending cycle of self-doubt.

Let me remind you again: I actually enjoy going to RT. I look forward to it every year. But it is work, not a vacation. I’ll arrive home at the end in a state of zombiefied exhaustion, and I don’t expect next week to be particularly productive as I recover.

If you’re coming to RT, I’m sure you’ll see me around. I’m usually in the bar when I’m not attending a panel. If you’re not coming to RT but you live in the Chicago area, you should seriously consider coming in for the massive Book Fair on Saturday, April 14th from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. There will be tons of authors signing their books (including me, and Dame Rachel!), and it’s open to the public. Click here for more details on the Book Fair, including a list of the authors who will be attending.

About Dame Jenna

Jenna Black got her BA in physical anthropology from Duke University. She dreamed she’d be the next Jane Goodall, camping in the bush making discoveries about primate behavior. But then she did some research in the field and made this shocking discovery: primates spend about 80% of their time doing exciting things like sleeping and eating. Concluding this discovery was her life’s work in the field of primatology, she moved on to such jobs as grooming dogs and writing technical documentation. She writes urban fantasy for Bantam Dell and young adult urban fantasy for St. Martin’s.

Comments

  1. Bec McMaster says:

    I had to laugh at this post. I’m sure my BF thinks I have a lovely relaxing time at the RWA conferences each year, but my experience is somewhat akin to yours. Its hard work – but I love it.

  2. I understand completely. I may not be a professional author, but a trade show is a trade show.. and there are few things I find more exhausting than walking around under bright lights, attending big dinners, and pretending to be an extrovert in front of vendors, customers, partners and my bosses for several days at a stretch.

    Once I get home, I am usually catatonic for at least a week.

  3. Meggan McQuaid says:

    It seems to me that the thing to do right after a con is to go on vacation…to a nice, quiet place, like the beach, or the mountains. If you took two days to relax and recharge–OUTSIDE your home and office where you could ignore the have-to’s–that might be a nice way to recover more quickly. Just a thought. I love the idea of going to the beach by myself for two days, and this seems like the perfect excuse to do so.

  4. Way to put yourself out there! I can’t imagine being the center of attention for so many people. But, readers who take the time and money to attend a convention have drunk the author worship Koolaide, so basically we will love anything you have to say. So don’t worry about us, we love authors who say they don’t leave their houses for weeks and get so caught up in writing their latest that they forget to shower. We think that’s so cool.

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