There are all sorts of conferences for writers: fan cons, writer cons, gaming cons, fantasy cons, Sci fi/fantasy cons, mystery cons, romance cons… Lots and lots and lots of cons. I’ve been to many cons over the years and I like fantasy cons best. Why? Drama and comedy, the strange and bewildering mix of reality and multiple-alternate-non-realities. People let loose of their deeper, hidden selves at fantasy cons. All the stuff inside gets a place to come out and roam the halls and see the world(s). It’s fun!

I am still processing ConCarolinas, which means a lot of things, some of them weird, some of them part of my inner demons.  The inner demons are the ones claiming with clear certainty that I am worthless and useless and a total bigmouth. And, let’s be honest, I *am* a total bigmouth. Maybe not worthless or useless, but big mouth, I got. (grins)  Of the many things I remember from the con, the strongest one was the small voice of a girl. (Well, she was younger than I which makes her a girl to me, right?) She said, “I’ll never have the courage to get up there on a panel and talk. I just can’t.”

Well, neither can I. I panic and worry and get sick to my tummy. But I’ve learned to wait to have the worst of the panic attacks until I get home. At the risk of showing too many inner demons to the world, I’ll answer that young woman’s thoughts with my own after-con-panic attack. Maybe it will help her to deal with fear of maybe someday speaking at a conference.

A few random panicked (pickled? That’s what my fingers first typed. Freud???) thoughts:
Did I really say that? Yes. It came out of my mouth. It probably belongs to me.
Did I take up too much time on panel? Probably. I have a mouth and it is very opinionated. Unlike my own sweet self. David and Misty stop laughing.
Did I really tell that writer to shut up, that the question was directed at someone else? Yes (in a small voice) I did. I am evil and lightning may strike me for it, but… hell… I’d do it again.
Did I whine? (Oh, no. Don’t ask!) Yes, I did. But one time when I was hungry and David and Misty had gone off to eat without me, (without me, do you hear!) my whine got me a private lunch with Katherine Kurtz. Not that I whined *at her*, but she was hungry too. God, I love that woman! She is elegant and calm, sophisticated, gracious. All the things I long to be. And never will. I am waxing paranoid and sharing my panic-attack here, but in all seriousness, I do know my limits. Katherine Kurtz has it all. Me? I was so nervous I couldn’t hold my fork. Thank God I was wearing black. Hey, what else does one wear at a fantasy con. Come ON!
Did I ask Katherine Kurtz to do a Q and A on MW? YES! I did, Point one to me!
Did I ask her to join us (all 20 or so writers) for dinner? Yes. And she came. Whoowhoo!
Did I eat too much? Yes. Do I care? No. I just freaking don’t.
Did I drink too much? No. Another point to me.
Did I ignore my hubby? Yes. (Small voice.) I always do at a con. It is time for writers and fans. He understands. But it still bothers me.
Did I *say* something mean, or ignore a fan, or *do* something mean or stupid? Probably. I don’t pay attention when I am tired and believe me, cons are very tiring. People get feelings hurt at cons. David had a many-hours drive home after the con. I got to prop my feet up and ride in the RV. I do have it good, I admit.
Did I feel worthless and stupid and … yes. I did. I do now, while I am running it through my mind. So, to that sweet young woman who said she could never do this…well, you can. If I can, you can. Write. BIC (Butt in Chair). Then someday, a con. You. Will. Be. Great!

Cons are fun. You get to see writers at our best and our worst. You get to see us interact with one another and you get to interact with us. Some of it is high drama, like when panels got heated about the nature of faith or science or the purpose of fantasy vs. science (I heard about that one; didn’t see it). And some of it is comedy, like when a certain writer came out of the closet as a cross-dresser appearing as his alternate persona, as a female. Oh. My. God.

You get to see old friends and make new. And pray God – not make a totally blathering idiot fool of yourself. All this was for one writer/fan. Hope the rest of you…well, don’t know what you might have gotten out of it. (grins)



13 comments to Bigmouth

  • QUOTE: “I’ll never have the courage to get up there on a panel and talk. I just can’t.”

    Well, neither can I. I panic and worry and get sick to my tummy.

    Heh! I think everyone to a degree has some trepidations about speaking to an audience. It’s that feeling of, “am I going to sound like a total boob?” I took a public speaking class to help a bit with that. Actually, it’s helped with speaking to people in general. I’m a roleplayer and can act rather well, so something I tend to do, which probably isn’t amazingly beneficial for my mental health, is I tend to play a role of someone who is far more boisterous and outgoing than I am. I overlay those elements that I see in incredibly outgoing people over my normally quiet and introverted psyche and I pretend I’m that person. It’s weird, I know, but it tends to work for me. I also usually have a lot of water around because nervousness always makes my mouth drier than…well, drier than a really, really dry place. Drier than a desert.

    QUOTE: Thank God I was wearing black. Hey, what else does one wear at a fantasy con.

    Fairy wings, Renaissance clothing and a little stuffed dragon on your shoulder? 😉

    QUOTE: Probably. I don’t pay attention when I am tired and believe me, cons are very tiring. People get feelings hurt at cons.

    Thankfully, I was graced with the patience of a stone, but I’m observant and have seen what famous people (authors, actors, etc.) have to deal with at cons and even I have to admit that I’d be grinding my teeth at times, especially toward the end of the con. I know how tiring it is just attending a con, and I’ve run games for a game company all weekend at a con a couple times and it can be taxing. I give props to anyone who has to do it on a regular basis and not go ballistic.

  • Christina

    Yep, if I can talk on a panel, anyone can. I’m a serious introvert, though I find I’m coming out of my shell the older I get.

    Faith, it sounds like I missed A LOT by following the gaming track this year rather than the writing one–but I had fun, too. I’m so glad you got to lunch with Katherine Kurtz. That’s very cool. I’m also very curious now about the cross-dresser. If you can’t tell me here, drop me a line about that.

  • I have to say that the Faith I’m reading in this post bears little resemblance to the poised, articulate, funny, considerate Faith I sat next to on, like, a hundred panels this past weekend. The one time when you shut down the other panelist it was justified. The question was directed at someone specific (me, as it happens, and I had opened my mouth to answer when this other person jumped in) and clearly that’s who the questioner wanted to hear from first. You threw it open to others when I had answered, and gave this other panelist first crack at saying something, which was appropriate. I think you handled it perfectly. As for the rest, you are charming, intelligent, and a tremendous asset to any panel you’re on — and I say this as someone who’s now been on quite a few panels with you. I understand the nervousness, the impulse to run and hide. But you were great all weekend. And having Katherine here to do a Q and A is a total coup! You rock!

  • Oh… thank you guys. And I really hope that any writer out there who panics at the thought of speaking on a panel, will understand that it is normal. (I guess that sounds like I am claiming to be normal, but no…) We can all do it. It can be a fun part of the job.

  • I keep reading posts and comments from introverted writers all over the place and feeling vaguely guilty. I get out rarely enough that I never *look forward* to a social engagement, but it’s not nerves, it’s just that I’m not used to it and the change in routine makes me grumpy. But I love every aspect of cons and signings and what-not. I don’t get the whole ‘putting on a performance’ thing that so many writers seem to. Extrovert, that’s me. 🙂

  • For me it’s the best way I’ve found to get past my introversion and shyness I’ve pretty much always had. Really, the “acting” part only lasts until I start to get comfortable and then my own personality comes through, which is usually far wackier and interesting anyway. It’s also sometimes a good way for me to gauge a person or group and see just what I can get away with by the time I am at that comfortable level. My personality sometimes needs a leash. 😉

  • (grins…) Grumpy, Catie? I totally get that. I have to turn off the internal part of me that writes and turn on the social part. I’m not usually very fond of the social part, as she can get mouthy. Hence the title of this blog.

    Daniel, a lot of writers have a quiet, insular personality, and they often have to *build* a public persona out of parts and bits and pieces of themselves. It sometimes feels like an act at first, even to them, but usually settles into/onto them over time, because it’s really them, just with a shot of soda and a twist of lime.

  • Wayne


    For someone that was in the audience for that panel, it was justified. You were the moderator and someone specifically directed the question to David.

    When I read your post also, like David mentioned, bore little resemblance to to the person I met and saw at numerous panels during the weekend. All three of you were actually very enjoyable. I am very pleased that I finally met both you and Misty.

  • I for one, would have never guessed you were nervous, you did a fabulous job. 🙂
    I agree with David, as the person sitting between him and said buttinski, you were very quick and professional about the situation.
    I understand the fear, I have a tendency to talk half in and half out of my head only figuring out that I’m doing it by the strange looks I get.
    It was a pleasure meeting your group and thought it was exceptionally kind of you to offer A.J. half of your table.

  • Great post — thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have to echo everyone else that I’d have never guessed you were nervous! As the person who asked the question you’re talking about, I was glad you made sure David had a chance to answer it because we were running out of time and what he’d said really struck me and got me thinking. I thought you did a fantastic job moderating and thanks for all the time you put into the con — it really does make a difference!

  • Gosh. Wow. Gulp. Okay. I guess the nervousness didn’t show.
    Thanks y’all!

  • Being subject to panic attacks myself, I sympathize. Large gatherings of people are stressors for me, so in that you are not alone. That said, the bad memories will fade, leaving only the good. That’s the way we are.

    And speaking of ideas popping up at odd moments…

    Bob once saved the world. Now he’s going on a tour revisiting the event. But, it’s been 30 some years since his triumph, and his memory of the events is not as reliable as he thought. Remembrance, a tale of memory, nostalgia, and why goblins are not known for their culinary achievements.

  • Wow. Who were you talking about? You may be nervous, but it doesn’t show. Heaven knows we all second guess ourselves but I don’t think your second-guessing is warranted. You come off as confident, humorous, and interesting. You are one of my favorite panelists because your comments are so helpful and informed and full of personality (multiple personalities, even, lol).

    I am not on the panels but I can’t help but pipe in with comments when I get excited about a topic. I always leave and think, “Gina, that may have seemed like something relevent and non-intrusive to say at the time, but you talk too much. You aren’t on the panel. People don’t care about your opinion. You probably annoyed the panelists and made a fool of yourself.” Amy Sturgis is often a panelist and she’s a friend and she assures me I am not intrusive and my comments are interesting, but she is also very loyal, lol. Who knows how it will feel when I’m actually on a panel. Amy will probably have to ressussitate me, lol.