brumph brumph brumph pump pump! Imagine the beat of the horses’ hooves. That’s the way I feel right now, as if everything is rising to a climax around me. Like others, I’m in the final preparation stages for a week surrounded by other writers (good fun) and scary people like agents and editors. I know I’m not supposed to think of them as scary people — as the Dutch proverb goes (according to my father) they put on their pants one leg at a time just like everyone else — but I can’t say I approach my opportunities to pitch with complete confidence and tranquility. Nor am I entirely sure that I won’t say something supremely stupid to somebody somewhere else or fail, in my agitation, to recognize someone who recognizes me . . . oh dear. And then, to be entirely contradictory about it, I’m really looking forward to the week!
Honestly, I’ve been around long enough, and have four adult children to prove it, so that you would expect me to have a polished calm smile and if not a queenly sweeping entrance at least something a little above a nervous scuttle, but if there’s anything life has taught me, it’s that I’m capable of making a complete hash of things. And having been around for a while, as proved above, I have many glorious episodes to remember. Like the time I was in the buffet line at a wedding, had just collected a plateful of food, and then slipped in my splendid new shoes, threw the plate in the air as I fell and the contents were distributed neatly down the entire length of the unfortunate waiter standing at the side. That was very early in our marriage, and one of the things that persuaded me I’d found a keeper was that in the shocked hush that followed, the good man came up from where he’d been a short distance behind talking with friends and claimed me. I don’t know if I would have!
So here I am zestfully looking forward to a weeklong theater of possible disasters. Will I miss my step when I’m marched in the little line to the editor/agent’s table and slide gracefully into her lap? Will I slip on some stairs — there are always stairs — and fall the length of the staircase and instead of being unconscious be relatively unharmed and have to scramble to my feet in a gathering circle of horrified onlookers? Will I think I know someone and greet them with enthusiasm and the wrong name? The mind boggles.
Do you have any all-too-vivid memories of the times you got it wrong, or do you have to have many years, like me, to collect a reasonable sampling? The comforting truth I can share with you all is that you do survive even the worst things. And later — truthfully, sometimes a lot later — you can even laugh about them. Or maybe use them in a book!