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2005-11-11 @ 12:10 a.m.
being the center of the universe, really ain't that great

The last couple of days have been stressful for me personally. No real reason, and it was totally self inflicted, as usual. A couple of weeks ago at our last training tract at work, they had asked for a volunteer focal person and I thought it would be fun to have a group of people at my disposal to help me brainstorm some possible solutions for problems I've been coping with recently. I've got several large ones, namely my failing car, but I decided to make it something fun with moneymaking potential.

So I decided to bring in a children's book I had written for "A"s kids and see if I could get some help and support from people on how to market and possibly sell it to a publishing company. The book, of course, is already completed. I had given it to "A" about 8-9 years ago for Christmas for his 2 children, and kept a mockup copy in my desk drawer just collecting dust.

I, of course, have been writing for over 30 years. I've written for newspapers since 1977. I tried my hand at writing screenplays for movies and television. And about the only thing I had never tried my hand at was writing books. And lord knows, I'm certainly prolific enough. And I've taken quite a few writing classes over the years, and not to toot my horn or anything, but I've always usually been the star of these classes down at the ol' local junior college. And that might have been why I subconsciously took them. To feel good about myself at everyone else's expense. But then I got bored with them, after a while. And eventually I started bringing in things I had already written, which was really of lazy of me.

So I finally took a kind of writing class I had never taken before. A children's book writing class. And talk about feeling like a fish out of water! First of all I had not read a children's book, since I was a kid. Secondly, every single woman in the class was either a mother or a teacher. I was neither. So they were all chit chatting about kids and what they liked to do and read and the games they liked to play and I was sitting on the other side of the room feeling totally awkward. Because, you see, this was long before I met Married Guy and his kids, so I literally had never had any contact with kids up until that point. And I think all the other women in the class could sense this and I felt like an outcast. And they really seemed to keep to their little soccer mom/baby puke smelling cliques. It didn't really do much for my ego.

But then when the writing part of the class finally started, I wrote the whole book in a week, as well as illustrating it with clip art. And it turned out really cute. It was also humorous and easy to read. It had a brief plot. It incorporated "A"s kid's names and it turned out really well. I was pretty happy with it. I was also a little nervous sharing it with the other women in the group. I figured they probably had more insight into what kids truly liked and wanted. So on the last night of the class, we all sat around and read our books aloud. I think there were about 6-7 women in the class. Most of their books read like:" Ralph the dog was nice. He likes to bark. He likes his bone. He likes to run and play. Jimmy is Ralph's friend. Jimmy loves Ralph. Jimmy likes to play with Ralph. He feeds Ralph bones. They like to walk in the park." And that would be the end of the book.

And then all the mommy and teachers would wildly applaud each other and say how great the book was and it would surely sell. I tried to fit in, saying it was a nice story, but under my breathe I was saying, "is that all there is? Well, maybe that's okay for a 4 year old. I'm not really sure." But nearly every story in the class pretty much read like that. An animal was the star or a kid went fishing and caught a fish. I actually waited until last, partially out of ego (saving the best for last?) and partially out of anxiety (I hate reading my stuff out loud, even when I know its good).

I then read my book about two cats who hang out around the house all day, doing all sorts of things like playing dustbunny hockey, singing cat operas, climbing curtains and terrorizing each other, but when the kids come home from school they're sleeping in exactly the same spot as when they left for school, never letting on that they were involved in incredibly bad cat behavior all day. The class loved it and laughed throughout most of it and then applauded at the end. That was the first time I felt accepted by all the moms and teachers in the room and it felt good.

The only problem was...I never had the confidence to submit it to get published. I mean I gave the completed copy to "A" who was really touched by it. I assume he gave it to his kids. But I just brought it home and shoved it into the top drawer of my computer desk and only look at it every year or so. I guess I didn't want to see it get rejected, because I had such an awesome record in my journalism career. Out of about 300 published stories submitted, I only had one rejected by the Pacific Sun in Mill Valley, and I really think it was just because I was making fun of Marin types, not because it was poorly written. It was about a Vending Machine that gave out shrink advice. It was called "Vend-a-Shrink."

So I brought this book in for this focal group thingie. Unfortunately what I didn't realize was how stressful that was going to be. The whole morning of the seminar was about how this was going to be set up, about group dynamics, how the framework was going to be structured and as I was sitting there, I was starting to get more and more nervous and then I started to draw again, because I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack. Usually I keep a clonopin or two in my purse, but I didn't have any. We did break for lunch and I went out with "J". It was pouring rain, but we ran down to a deli about a block away. I wanted to talk about how anxious I was, but "J" just talked and talked, so I just nodded and ate my ham sandwich.

When I got back from lunch I was extremely nervous, especially the way the chairs were set up. They were all facing towards me, like I was the center of the universe and that made me really anxious, especially the way people all seemed to be staring at me expectantly. I'm not used to getting so much attention. I like my role as the Invisible Girl for the most part. So I asked the facilitator is we could sit around a table instead, so it was less formal and intrusive. So we did that, but unfortunately that didn't help either, because in an effort to get to know my attributes, suddenly there were 11 people pelting me questions from all angles. Normally these focal things are done with people you know and have chosen to be there. Unfortunately, I didn't know more than half of the people who were there. I only knew my case mgr and "J" and a couple of my coworkers. The rest of the people were total strangers. And then we got to the part of the framework that asked me about my supports. I really don't have many. I only have "A" and my case manager. But one guy kept pressing if any of my family members were supportive. Yeah, right.

I finally just broke down in tears and had to leave the room. I felt like the world's biggest tool. I think it was just the combination of all these people asking me a bunch of questions (it felt like a mega job interview with 11 people asking me stuff) and then the sadness I felt when I had to admit I don't really have any support from my family. Support from my mother is iffy. She might pay attention for like 5 minutes about something I'm talking about, but then she'll start talking about her cat or the guy on the radio or her neighbor making noise upstairs. She's always been like that. Once she loses interest, she goes on to the next subject, no matter how important it is to me. That's why I have such crappy self esteem. I have never felt like anything I've ever done has warranted more than 5 minutes of attention.

So I felt really stupid crying in front of a bunch of my coworkers, especially since they were there to help me. A couple of them had even read my book and liked it. So I locked myself in the bathroom until I had regained control of my crying and then went back out and my case manager and the facilitator guy were outside waiting for me. The facilitator said he thought the group was too big and asked if I wanted to trim it down. I told him I felt guilty, taking people out, because they'd have to just sit around and do nothing. My case manager said she knew I'd say that because I always think of other people's feeling (you probably can't tell in this diary, but I do). So we had a pow wow and discussed some things and I finally agreed to cut several people who I didn't know and to skip over the part about my personal supports, because it was a sensitive subject for me.

The rest of the event went better. It was a little more relaxed and conversational and I realized what I really need the most in the marketing my book is not marketing or information, but someone telling me I can do it and being emotionally supportive, both if it gets rejected several times or if it gets sold. I need someone to hold my hand essentially, since I'm no longer able to handle this stuff alone.

Unfortunately, when everyone in the seminar came back together, our facilitator did refer to my event as a "train wreck". I really don't think it was that bad. We were just learning how to do this, and I was just a little emotional, because I was nervous to begin with and we didn't do as much prep work as we were supposed to and also I didn't have people that I knew very well in our group.

By time we got out, there was a huge thunder and lightening storm outside. It was probably the worst storm I have ever driven in. There was lightening erupting all over the skies which were pitch black. It was raining sideways. The winds were blowing about 40-45 mph. There was tiny ice pellets hitting my windshield at one point. It was like the end of the world. I was so nervous about driving home in those conditions that I actually pulled off at Walmart and was going to go in and walk around a little until it got better, but then I thought, what the hell...if a tornado hits Walmart, I don't want to die there. Think how embarrassing that would be. "Cool hippie chick found in rubble at Walmart. Film at 11:00." Gah!

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Lyrics by Lennon/McCartney. All angst copyright by awittykitty