Friday, February 12, 2010
The New Kid in Town
Please help me welcome this week's guest blogger, Robin Kaye. Robin is a multi-published author with Sourcebooks Casablanca. Her first book, Romeo, Romeo was a 2007 Golden Heart® Winner. Her most recent book, Breakfast in Bed, came out in December 2009, and earned a 4-Star Review from Romantic Times. You can learn more about Robin on her website.
I have a confession to make. I’m not shy. I don’t think I’ve ever been shy. I was the three-year-old who would walk up to strangers in the grocery store, tug on their coats to get their attention and say, “You know what, my mom give me and my dog the same medicine.” My mother would cringe, because, well, she did give my dog and me the same pills (cod-liver oil) and God only knew what else would come out of my mouth. I understand that feeling well. I have a daughter just like me only worse, and I say that with the utmost love and respect.
When I was a kid, my family moved so frequently, I made army brats look stable. Teachers would look at my transcripts and ask if my family was in the service. I’d say “No, my mother is part gypsy.” Their responses were always strange looks as if they wondered if my mother was a dark-haired beauty who wore brightly colored flowing skirts, large, gold earrings, and told fortunes. My mom’s Italian, she had the dark-haired beauty and large gold earrings part down, but beyond that, the similarities fall apart. Regardless of the reason, I went to at least ten different grade schools. I counted six before 4th grade.
Always being the new kid was difficult, especially since my mother always insisted that I wear undershirts. She might as well have tattooed the word “Loser” on my forehead. It was not pretty. By 4th grade, I’d given up on the notion of staying in one place for more than 9 months, making friends, and having any semblance of a social life. I withdrew into the world of fiction. I would find the local library, and if it were within walking distance, I would hang out there. I’d lose myself in books and try to forget the daily humiliation that was school.
If you didn’t know the real me, I’d bet you would have thought I was shy. I remember being afraid to approach people I didn’t know, and the thought of having to speak in public was enough to make me sick. I even started stuttering.
Every time I’d move, I’d think things would change, but somehow the kids at the new school would treat me the same way. It wasn’t until sophomore year in high school I’d gotten tired of constantly being picked on. I gave myself an attitude adjustment because really, I was so over trying to impress anyone and long past caring about what others thought. I had a full life outside of school with wonderful adult friends, and a job. When I moved and started at yet another school, I had low expectations—school was something you survived. Imagine my surprise when I went from the girl who was barked at (it’s true, I was actually barked at from 8th-10th grades) to the girl who got asked out. The first time it happened, I thought the guy was trying to put me down. You know, ask the introvert out, and then laugh when she says yes. Instead, I was the one laughing. When the poor boy shook his head and said he was serious, I thanked him for asking and turned him down. It wasn’t until I didn’t care about what people thought that I lost the stigma I carried with me since early childhood. If I hadn’t been so past the point of caring about popularity, I may very well have become popular.
The more things change the more they stay the same. I still don’t feel comfortable going out and meeting new people. I do it all the time because I force myself. If you ever saw me at RWA conferences, you’d never know how uncomfortable and exhausting it is for me. I talk to everyone. I walk up to complete strangers and start conversations; I make it a point not to sit with my friends at lunch or dinner but to sit at tables with 9 people I’ve never met because it’s my job. I put on my game face and I work it. It’s work, it’s the business we’re in, and it’s important to every one of us to network.
I like to think of what I do as taking on a role. I learned a long time ago to fake it ‘till you make it. It works. I take a deep breath and jump into the deep end of the pool. I figure I survived five years with kids barking at me, meeting with fellow writers, editors, and agents is child’s play compared to that.
I’m much more comfortable now in a social setting. If I could have my agent/editor appointments at the bar, I’d be happy. Unfortunately, RWA hasn’t embraced my position on that yet. My last editor appointment was a waking nightmare. I finally blew my hair out of my eyes, looked at the editor who had written me off 10 seconds after I opened my mouth, and apologized for the world’s worst pitch. She patted my hand and said “It wasn’t that bad.” She was a horrible liar.
Editor appointments are something I still have to work on and I will because I’ll force myself to do just that. The world’s worst editor appointment didn’t kill me, it didn’t keep me from getting published, it just embarrassed me. I’ve lived through much worse. At least that editor didn’t bark at me.
Robin will be giving away two copies of her book, Breakfast in Bed, to two people who post here today. Good luck!