She would not even face the thought that presently she would have to go out in front of everybody and dance; even thinking of it made her inside feel as though she had swallowed an ice too quickly. (from Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield)
I have avoided “going out in front of everybody and dancing” pretty much all my life. And I don’t just mean actual dancing, although I have been known to excuse myself from that plenty of times as well. I mean just performing in general, putting myself out there for any and all to see, drawing attention to myself in any way. The feeling of swallowing ice too quickly captures the cold fear in a way that makes me feel it just to read it. What a great phrase!
I am learning, through writers’ conferences, books, blogs, etc. that becoming a published author requires a good deal of putting oneself out there. Oh, my. A few years ago, an elementary school I worked for put on a stunt to encourage reading among the children. The children read books and then take short tests over the content (to prove they’ve read them) and get points awarded per book read. At the end of the school year there is some type of award for the child with the most points, the top reader. This particular year, the faculty calculated the points and narrowed the results down to the top ten readers in the school. The top ten were then brought out in front of the whole school and released into a pen full of baby goats. The children chased down the goats as the crowd cheered and when they caught one, took a ribbon off of its neck with an envelope revealing their prize amount. I have never been more baffled.
I just kept thinking, as a person who surely would have been in the top ten readers of my own elementary school as a child, I would have rather died than chase down a goat in front of the whole school! But it seems that getting published is a lot like that: an introverted reader type is required to chase down a goat and wrestle a ribbon off of its neck. The envelope she wrestles off the goat may contain a rejection letter. Then she must chase down the next goat in the pen and so on until finally her hard work is rewarded. There is a certain degree of self-promotion involved in the process that is extremely unsettling to me.
All of this to say, next Monday I will put myself out there in a big way by inviting about fifty teachers to read three of my picture book manuscripts and critique them. Even thinking of it makes my inside feel as though I have swallowed ice too quickly. It is almost as horrifying as dancing in public, or chasing a goat in front of five hundred peers. Almost. Think of me, and maybe offer me a hot chocolate if you see me that day.