So, this weekend was YAKFest, the YA Book Festival in Keller, Texas. I would be remiss if I didn’t start off by saying that this was a great event and the organizers treated us authors really well, and the volunteers that made things happen were teh awesome.
I also have to say that I was on a panel with a super group of authors: Victoria Scott, Cory Putman Oakes, Mary Lindsey, moderated by Jenny Martin. (Never underestimate the worth of a good panel moderator.)
So, anyway. During the panel someone Tweeted that I was hilarious (or maybe it was just that I was funny, but this is my blog so I can remember it the way I want). I got home and Mom, who reads my tweet stream asked, “What did you say that was so funny?”
Now, here’s what’s messed up about that question:
1. The fact that my mother reads my Twitter stream, including the @replies.
2. Her general tone of surprise.
3. My mother does not assume I am just naturally charming and all-around amusing without trying. She assumes I must have said ONE FUNNY THING.
So I answered, “I don’t know. I was just myself.”
Mom: “Which self?”
A valid point. See, Mom knows that I’ve always been a smart-ass. But for the first 18 or so years of my life, this was a closely guarded secret.
A few years ago, I went to a reunion of drama school friends and I gave some of the Maggie Quinn ones to my former teachers. One of them said, “I had no idea you were so funny. You were always so polite and quiet…”
Well, of course my characters are droll (or smart, or whatever)—I give them great set up lines and have plenty of time to think of the perfect response. No character is ever reduced to “I know you are, but what am I?” in a book.
As for real life, I’ve always been smart and funny…
Wait, let me amend so that doesn’t sound so arrogant.
I made my family and close friends laugh, and I made good grades (when I actually did my homework). But I was in theater, and I was in honors classes, so I was surrounded by kids who were smart and funny and actually able to voice these things in smart and funny ways. Whereas I was introverted, dorky kid (or at least I felt like one) who was content to let my extroverted friends do their thing. (Then come out like the dark horse at audition time, ha ha!)
So what happened between then and now? I’m still an introvert (even though no one believes it); I’ve just learned some good coping strategies. I’ve always had private confidence (obviously, given the raging egotism in this post). But I’ve had to learn to externalize that confidence. I had to start to value my own voice enough to show it to other people. And I had to learn not to be afraid of what would happen when I did.
You have to learn this as a writer anyway, because you send your words out to be rejected, then edited, then remarked upon by the whole world, or at least the percentage of them on Goodreads and Amazon.com. That’s terrifying enough. But here’s the secret of letting your voice be heard in public. Strangers are WAY nicer in person than online. (Usually. There’s always that one…)
As for being “funny.” I’m not. I just like to laugh. So once I got the confidence to actually SAY what I THINK… Well, it just happens that I’m almost always thinking absurd things. It also happens that my life is full of crazy situations and I am always doing ridiculous things, and once you get over the fear of looking foolish, you realize that laughing at yourself is the best feeling in the world, second only to letting someone else in on the joke.
So, that’s the answer to my mother’s question. What did I say that was funny? Nothing. I just laughed at myself and the audience laughed with me.
(Well, not all of them, obviously. But the third greatest feeling in the world is to realize you can’t please everyone, so why sweat it.)
Of course, it could also be because I accidentally said s*** in front of a bunch off teenagers. And when you’re a teen, nothing is funnier than adults who accidentally say s*** they’re not supposed to.