Within the next week, I will sit on two “expert” panels at a writer’s conference. I only put expert in quotes because I’ll be on them. In one, I may sit near the renowned Anne Perry as well as other people who have significant authorial chops. To say nothing of copious sitting-on-a-panel chops.
I have no panel chops. I’ve taught a lot of writing classes (presenting myself as an expert)(and being accepted as one). I’ve discussed writing endlessly in groups small and large, and done it with some confidence, even at times with brio. But facing a score or more total strangers while pretending I have something worthwhile to say about writing holiday or historical mysteries is pretty damn challenging.
Charlie Rose (whom I adored until you-know) once talked with actor Robert Pattinson (of Twilight fame) about the Impostor Syndrome. Mr. Rose said, referring to his own Impostor problem (and I’m not referring to the ghastly #MeToo disclosures), “I always think, if only they knew…” and Pattinson confessed to his own issues. So, maybe the most accomplished among us suffer from the same affliction as I do. To be clear: the pervasive thought that we are bullshitting the world. “If only they knew.”
Odds are good that I will have survived more Christmases than anyone else in the building, but that fact hardly confers expertise. I put my long-running holiday success down to two things: a compulsive need to reposition tree baubles and a visceral dislike of eggnog. The first keeps me very busy and the second keeps me out of drunken confrontations with relatives over the crappy presents they foisted on me in years past.
I have this vision of showing up naked for the panels (but I always look like J Lo or, in a pinch, that hot, totally ripped Marine I spotted at the airport). After all, the vision is the visual equivalent of what I know. Or (which just might actually happen and if it does just ignore me) the moderator will ask me to introduce myself and I’ll just faint and slide under the table. Hopefully, I won’t slide into Anne Perry on my way down.
Total strangers I bump into on the streets of Baku or Kuching or Heraklion are instant friends. I joke, I laugh, I ask questions. I am a charming Charlotte Rose, totally without the dread Impostor Syndrome. In Franklin Tennessee, at Killer Nashville, I may morph into the human equivalent of a pile of grits. Cheese grits, of course. Please don’t come and watch.