This past summer I took over as President of my local Women's National Book Club Association, a group dedicated to book industry professionals, readers, and writers. It's a great group and I love being a part of it. But I would be lying if I didn't say that there were aspects of being President that stress me out. One of the charges of the President is to mingle at all social events, welcome new members, greet guests, and generally make the social portion of any event comfortable for everyone. I would far rather be sitting in a corner reading my own book until the event starts. The President typically also gives a short speech before each event thanking people for coming, mentioning any new business and future events, and introducing the speaker, if there is one. This part of my job makes me want to vomit. Public speaking gives me nightmares. But since I agreed to the position (blithely glossing over the social and public parts in my head when I accepted it), I have had to learn to cope. And one of the best ways I found to cope was to look around me at these events and to realize that everyone there was also a book person and odds were, they were at least almost as introverted as I am. And that helped.
At our first meeting this year, and thus the first one to which I had to welcome everyone publicly after mingling (two things high on my avoidance list), I met an author who was new to our chapter. And as we chatted, she admitted that she had joined the group in order to force herself out of her comfort zone knowing that she needed to learn to be better at promoting her books. She had been nervous about coming to the meeting (the first one of the year is always a social networking meeting for us) because she didn't know anyone and found chatting with strangers difficult. Hello fellow introvert! I think that's when it occurred to me that if you're a reader or a writer, chances are high that you're an introvert. So I told her. I admitted that I wasn't so hot in social situations either. My own husband, who has known me since college, admitted that people found me a little intimidating and aloof at college parties when what I was really feeling was uncomfortable and awkward. But I told the author that the group she was standing in at that very moment was a group of her people. It was a collection of editors, agents, authors, librarians, readers, etc. and that with the possible exception of our PR person and maybe the agents, that we were all, to a woman, introverts. And we were all feeling the same anxiety about chatting that she was feeling so even if that didn't make it easier to approach someone she didn't know, at least it might make that moment when an awkward silence descended, because in conversations between introverts who don't know each other and are trying to make small talk it is inevitable that an awkward silence will descend, a little easier to accept and maybe even joke about.
I've obviously gotten a little better at faking it over the years and I've even managed to fool people into thinking that I'm not nearly as much of an introvert as I really am. But I will always be the person trying to calculate how much she'd be missed if she just headed over to hide out behind a plant, pulled out my book, and let the social stuff swirl around without me. What about you, my fellow book people? Are you, like I suspect, introverts too?
This week I am enjoying being a hermit on the taiga but and I am also still immersed in the amazing confluence of events that happened in the summer of 1927. I rooted for an events planner and a kilted hunk to save a small town's historic Scottish Games, finished visiting with the African American mantua maker who became close friends with Mary Todd Lincoln, spent time reading about a young single woman and a broken scientist as they figured out which love story they belonged in, watched as Mary Bennet changed and matured and found her own perfect match, and chuckled as a rebellious teen forced into a hoop skirt navigated the archaic Magnolia Maid court that her late mother had done so many years before her. Where did your bookish travels take you this week?