Thursday, March 13, 2014

Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends

I had to laugh when I read Hannah's entry, below. Not because she was writing about a funny situation. Far from it. Anyone who has ever written a book understands the paralyzing fear and loathing she describes. No, I had to laugh because of the serindipitousness* of it all. My plan for today is to bemoan the fact that I'm about to get myself back into the same situation.

This coming weekend, March 15 and 16, is the Tucson Festival of Books, held annually on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson. TFoB is a giant gathering of nearly 400 authors of all ilks, all participating in panels, talks, signings, presentations, and workshops. Nearly 120,000 people normally attend over the two day period. That's pretty good, considering that the population of Tucson is around 585,000. The festival draws readers and writers from all over the desert Southwest, and has almost reached the size of the Los Angeles Festival, which boasted 150,000 attendees last year.

I'll be moderating a couple of panels, book signing at four signing venues, and participating as a panelist on a third panel. Participating on a panel is a little nerve-wracking if you don't care for speaking in front of crowds. I don't mind public speaking, but one does feel a some pressure to be entertaining. It takes a lot of preparation to be spontaneously witty and profound. The real work comes with being a panel moderator. Now, that does take a lot of prep. The moderator's job is to make the panelists look good. I've moderated many a panel in my time, and sometimes the authors are real pros who make it easy and sometimes you get a bunch of stiffs and you work your hindquarters off trying to keep the audience from either walking out or sliding out of their chairs in a coma, overcome by boredom.

I don't think I'll have that problem this time. My panelists are: 1) Rhys Bowen, Jeri Westerson, Jacqueline Winspear; and 2) Susan Shea, Tim Hallinan, Michael Gruber. My guess is all I'll have to do is open the gate and the thoroughbreds will be off and running. Just in case, though, I've been reading as many of their books as I can get under my belt before the day, studying their websites and reading blogs and articles, and preparing questions.

TFoB is the first event I'm participating in since I had surgery in January, and it marks the beginning of a very full slate for me all spring and summer--and probably fall as well.

I don't know how I feel about that. The surgery I underwent was not life-threatening, but it was an "open 'er up, dig around in there a while and take out some funny stuff" sort of thing, which did entail quite a bit of recovery time. Afterwards, for the first time in a few years, I had no commitments to prepare for. I've nothing from early January though the middle of this month except lie around, think, read, write, eat. At first I wasn't able to do much. Not even housework, darn it. By now I'm fairly well recovered, but something has happened to my brain.

I cannot say how wonderful it is to have nothing you HAVE to do. And because I was incapacitated, I didn't even have to feel guilty about it. Once I could sit up for any length of time, I found that I was able to write with an ease that I hadn't felt for a long time.

The feeling took me back to the happiest four years of my life, 2000 to 2004, after I decided to sell out my business and stay home to write a book. Before my mother got sick, before my husband got sick, before I got sick. Before I got published and started all the promotional work that goes with it. I did nothing but write. My house was clean, I was able to cook and garden, I wasn't worried about the needs of children or family.

Success is wonderful. I'd love to have more of it. I know what needs to be done, and I do as much of it as I can afford. Still, I sometimes think longingly of the Italian philosophy of dolce far niente. "The sweetness of doing nothing."

As Hannah so chillingly illustrated, we are not built to be in perpetual motion lest we suffer an inevitable breakdown.

*I don't care if that's really a word or not. I like it.


Hannah Dennison said...

Love your post Donis! I take my hat off to you for being a moderator. It's a big job and I suspect you are very good at it. I am definitely putting Tuscon on my calendar next year. I am up for a bout of doing nothing. I'm hoping I can fit it in next month.

Donis Casey said...

Good luck with the nothing, Hannah. And after three months of stresslessness, we'll see if I still have the chops to moderate a panel

Judith Starkston said...

Have fun in Tucson. I'll be glad to see you there, but there is something magical about doing nothing without guilt.
You do have quite the fun crowd on your panels.

Sandra Parshall said...

I long for free time, a stretch when I don't have to do anything. I almost envy you your surgery and recovery! I hope your down time has refreshed you and you'll go to the book festival in a relaxed mood. Have fun!

Donis Casey said...

Sandy, I was almost glad to have the excuse. Someday I'd like to learn how to just say "I don't want to", without feeling bad about it