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BEA, ALA, cacti, & panic

For 7 years now, I've been pretty much an open to readers and fellow authors, so I'm seeing no reason to change that :)

Short Version: Things have been a little crazy in my corner of the world.  Some of the crazy was good (my little girl graduated high school!), and some has been significantly less good (pending baby adoption fell apart because of the birth mother's drug usage AND strange drama with my daughter's bio-mother).  Some was just normal (travel for work). Either way, the end result was a return to panic attacks.

Longer Version:
On the upside, my little girl (who will be 19 in September) graduated from high school. She was awarded the History excellence award. During said presentation, the upper school headmaster (who might possible be one of the best speakers I've heard) pointed out that she had taken everu single history elective AND done all the History AP courses.  Did I mention that she's going to be majoring in archaeology at university? She also had her university orientation for the school, the Honors College, and registered for her first term courses. She'll start school with 39 credits already completed. I am--as is probably obvious--a VERY proud Mama.

The Monday after her graduation we set off for NYC to attend Book Expo.  We brought her BFF with us, and on the first day of BEA, the girls joined another 50 people to pass out Carnival masks. (Daughter, her bff, & me in PW photo surrounded by masked carnival folks). I signed that day (which was a bit of a madhouse) and did a panel (pic of that at the same link).  My signing was even more intense than the usual BEA craziness. There were other work things--as there always are in NY--but there was also the super-fun part: taking Daughter & her bff to see Once on Broadway. THAT was fabulous.

During this whole window, the stress of drama over the adoption falling apart was exacerbated by a call en route to my daughter's awards (Friday before BEA) when we got a call asking if we would be open to adopting twins. I spent the graduation weekend and BEA waiting for a possible call to report to Florida to collect twin boys. Wednesday, at intermission for Once, I learned that the birth mother had decided to go with "a family with no children" so we were back to waiting. [NOTE: The way the adoption process works is that there are birth mothers who are show the profiles of adopting families matching their criteria. They pick one and a "match" is made. We were matched to Holly previously but that match ended over drugs in late May.]

In the midst of all of this, I had to let my assistant go in a situation too bizarre to explain.

My stress levels are a bit high these days. I realized just how much when I just about had a panic attack at BEA. I used to get them, but it's been almost 5 years since I've had one.

Post-BEA, I returned home to get some work done-
1. reading and editing some amazing stories for the Rags & Bones anthology I'm co-editing with Tim Pratt.
2. going over the galley pages for the Shards & Ashes altho I'm co-editing with Kelley Armstrong (out in Feb 2013)
3. implementing notes from my adult editor (Kate Nintzel) on The Arrivals (my new adult book, out fall 2013)
4. doing copyedits on Loki's Wolves (Blackwell Pages Book 1), the middle grade I co-authored with Kelley Armstrong.

THAT stuff was all fun though. I love the writing, the edits, the revision... gods, I love revision like I love candy. It's almost unhealthy how much I enjoy the tweaking of texts.

Then came ALA . . . where those panic attacks I'd been tried to beat back with sheer willpower and meditation knocked me on my ass.  I walked out of the Harper breakfast. I tried to get it under control, walked for 20 min, calmed down, & returned . . . only to leave again after 5 minutes.  I was furious with myself, but my editor and the School & Library folks at Harper were awesome.  They decided to add some measures at the signing that day to help me.  They banned pictures, and they kept the line back so only one person at a time was next to me. (They did that second part at BEA too.)  I did fine, although I had to stop midway through for a moment to take my inhaler and then apparently clutched my pen tightly enough that it ruptured and bled all over my hand.

After the signing, I escaped to the outside where my family (who all came to ALA) and friends were waiting.

On the other hand, the Coffee Klatch the next morning was panic free.  The Coffee Klatch was, quite possibly, also the most awesome part of all of BEA & ALA. Small group conversation with librarians? Pretty high on my list of things i love. Signings aren't as much fun for me. I say hi, sign, and maybe get a couple sentences of conversation. It feels so fleeting. I could've done the Coffee Klatch for several more hours . . .

It's also easier to do. I do well with panels and with ordered events. "Mingle" events are my version of hell. If I'm a bad egg and there were to be a personal hell just for me, it would be endless cocktail parties. I HATE them. The breakfast, the floor of ALA & BEA, the Harper cocktail party at BEA (which I also left) are the sorts of places that I've struggled with for years. Crowds without order? It makes me tense. Typically, I manage. This year, I didn't.

Since ALA & BEA, I've seen comments online (& heard them in person) that it was unfair that pictures weren't allowed at my signing at ALA and that I seemed a little "out of it" at BEA. An innate sense of obstinacy in me makes me want to stomp my foot and say it's MY business, but not answering this makes me feel like there's something wrong with wanting space (there isn't) or that panic attacks are something to be ashamed of (they're not). So here's the footnote: I absolutely hate having my picture taken, but for years, I've smiled and said "it's ok"  because I felt like I should. I always love talking to people, but I often hate being touched or hugged or having my picture taken. I keep it under control most of the time, but this year, I seem not to be succeeding at that.

I know that I'm far from the only author who feels like this. We're just people with weird quirks and flaws, so please know that it's not an insult when an author wants a little space or not being photographed. Sometimes, we don't want to have to explain why.

Anyhow . . . I left ALA and went to Joshua Tree. I love the Mojave. An hour in the desolate-yet-thriving beauty that is the desert and I felt like every stress, every panic, had fled. We hiked. I took hundreds of pictures. I met a sweet wise man who told me how to find the bighorn (I did) and then how to find a cache of hidden petroglyphs and pictographs (I did).  Being in the desert was a kind of heaven that I cherished.  I was up every day at 6am to hit the trails, & I think I might be even more in love with the Mojave than I was before this trip.  Stress will pass. It always does. In the meantime, I filled myself up with desert peace (& have an ocean escape next month).  Time in the purity of nature fixes whatever ails me.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 3rd, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
hope that things calm down for you ... and that the panic attacks were a momentary thing for now.

When I PA'd for a friend, fans wanted to just squeeze the stuffing out of her, so we had some very stringent rules in place because of her medical issues... you arent a bad person or author because of it.
Jul. 3rd, 2012 05:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you for talking openly about having a panic attack - my 13 year old daughter started them a few months ago, and it helped her greatly to realise that other people had them too, and it was nothing to be ashamed about.

Well done to your daughter - you have every right to be a proud Mama! :)
Jul. 3rd, 2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you for being open about anxiety, and sometimes just the desire not to be *touched* anymore by strangers. I'm still early enough in my career that I feel like I have to give hugs and take pictures on demand; I'm glad you're far enough in yours that you can say no and people will actually respect that.
Jul. 4th, 2012 03:01 pm (UTC)
Ditto here! xox
Jul. 3rd, 2012 05:35 pm (UTC)
Melissa, I'm very glad you have supports in place and understanding publishers who help you navigate this stuff. All that stuff would be hard for me, too, and my nervous system would be WAY overstimulated from all that interaction. And hooray for Mother Nature bringing us back to ourselves.
Jul. 3rd, 2012 05:57 pm (UTC)
Wow, I'm so sorry for all the crazy going on in your life right now. (Well, except for the good crazy.)

And thank you for sharing about your panic attacks and space issues. It makes me feel a little less sheepish about my own. I think it's really hard for fans to understand how so much of this public part of being an author simply does not come easily for a lot of writers. At huge venues like BEA and ALA, I often slip into a restroom stall for a few minutes, just so I can get my shields back in place.

Also, have you read Susan Cain's new book QUIET? It's a fascinating look at introverts and their societal and evolutionary context. As an extreme introvert, I highly recommend it!
Jul. 3rd, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
Yay to your daughter (wow, archaeology just sounds like a fabulous major!), and hugs (er, very hands-off, virtual hugs, of course) about the adoption craziness. From what I've seen from friends and relatives adopting, it's a roller coaster for sure.

I suspect most authors would rather hide than be on display--I know I would. There are settings where talking to people is doable and even pleasant, but if I don't have down time to hide in my cave and stare at blank walls, things get not pretty. I'm glad you got to go to Joshua tree. We find we have to flee often to the nearby Tetons to keep from losing our minds, and are so glad we have them close. (My whole family is rather introverted.)
Jul. 6th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
Re-charge time . . . I'm a mess without it. Mine is more outside than blank walls. Sometimes even the walls of my home feel too close. Joshua Tree was just about perfect. I bet the Tetons would be too.
Mary Brebner
Jul. 3rd, 2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, holy cow--you poor gal! I get serious crowd claustrophobia which is nowhere near like a panic attack so I can only imagine. Your BEA crowd was very intense and I was just in line (you were awesome--even remembered my name! Teacher name memory FTW!). I don't know how you do it.

It's fabulous that you have such a wonderful team of people around you. Do your best to ignore those who are fussing, do what you need to do for yourself and your family, and know that this too shall pass.
Jul. 3rd, 2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
I don't enjoy crowds or cocktail parties or people wanting pieces of me, either...*sends sympathy and empathy*

Yay for your intelligent and talented daughter!

And yay for some peace (and upcoming ocean therapy, ha). :)
Jul. 4th, 2012 04:26 am (UTC)
Mega congratulations on your daughter's achievements! Your pride is a glowing thing.
Sorry about the adoption disappointments and especially the panic attacks. Having them in the midst of professional obligations would be my version of hell. Glad you and your publisher were able to mitigate them and that you had the soul nourishment of the trip to Joshua Tree. That trip sounds awesome. :-)
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 6th, 2012 12:59 am (UTC)
Thanks :) I tend to aim for open. It's more comfortable for me usually.
Jul. 6th, 2012 12:37 am (UTC)
I'm sorry you had to go through all that. I did notice the one person at a time thing at BEA while I was waiting for the Carnival of Souls book drop right after your signing. I didn't even think anything of it. But yeah, I just go along with whatever the publicists say- I don't need to know the reasoning why.

I wish I'd been able to chat with you a bit on the floor. I saw you a few times but I was either in a line or on my way somewhere- BEA is always so crazy and I barely have time to talk to all the people I want to. Hopefully there's a DC event this fall where I can spend some time with you.

I'm also now really curious about the assistant incident. Have you had time to find another yet? Hope it doesn't get too crazy without one.
Jul. 6th, 2012 12:58 am (UTC)
Thanks :) I don't have a fall 2012 event other than FaerieCon in Maryland as of now. There's one other "maybe," but I'm not sure if I'm going to do it or not.

I have a temp for now & a 2nd PT person for other tasks for now, but things were too crazy to hire. I knew someone who was interested before so I called her the day I let Donna go. Nikki can only do PT though. That leaves me still to locate a second PT person ... I'll either tackle that in the next 6 weeks or make do until October. I thought about tweeting a hiring ad, but right now i'm just concentrating on the tasks that must be done.

Hope you are well.
Jul. 6th, 2012 01:10 am (UTC)
I'm doing well, especially now that we got power back in our house. It came back yesterday so we were without since Friday night's storm.

If I were living in the area, I'd offer my services though I've never been an assistant before. Glad that you have at least some help. Best of luck with everything!
Jul. 6th, 2012 05:23 pm (UTC)
If this happens again, tell the lovely Harper folks to find me. I will be your wall.
Jul. 9th, 2012 01:55 am (UTC)
Thanks. You and Aprilynn WERE my escape team at the cocktail party without even realizing you were rescuing me. :)
Jul. 7th, 2012 12:20 am (UTC)
I am so bummed the adoptions didn't work out. I hope a forever baby comes to live with you very soon.

You took a picture with me years ago at a Borders in La Grange and I thank you for that. I had no idea it affected you this way.

I hope thing settle down for you soon. Take care of yourself OK?
Jul. 9th, 2012 01:56 am (UTC)
It's often different with people I "know," and honestly, at that point the attacks were gone. No worries! Thank you though.
(no subject) - flightygem - Jul. 12th, 2012 03:43 am (UTC) - Expand
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )