Saturday, August 25, 2007

It's an anxious time

Well, my book goes on sale in four weeks. The countdown starts. I am about to place myself in front of the larger public. For those of you who came out of the closet, that pre-emergent anxiety is just how I feel now.

So far, the reviews are all good. But what if I miss something, or screw up? There are so many things I don’t see and hear. Conversational nuance. Take the simple phrase, “Don’t crush that dwarf! Hand me the pliers!”

Normal people, hearing that, just know where the emphasis lies. I don’t. Is it the dwarf? Do they emphasize “dwarf” so the others grab him instead of the other drunk guy on the stool? Is it the pliers? Instead of the wire cutters? I grabbed little Mikey Parks back in seventh grade, and they packed me off to the principal’s office when he yelled.

Or is it “crush” that’s the key word? Maybe there’s a choice there. . . squash him or toss him. I’ve had that happen to me. Maybe you have too . . .six drunk guys grab you and who knows where they toss you. In the pool . . .off the edge of the building . . .

I got tossed onto a table once, in a bar, and then one of the guys sitting under me got up and walloped me with the chair.

But I digress. That was then, and this is now. Today, I appear much more civilized. I have already mastered the skills of personal appearance and hygiene on my own. Now, I must master the skill of Being in Public. A scary thought for many Aspergians like me.

I will try and stop by our Asperger Association of New England group meting today, and seek inspiration. There’s an interesting crowd there, for sure.

Two days ago, I had a British photographer here, with his Irish assistant, to photograph me for a magazine over there. What a strange feeling. I’ve taken tens of thousands of photos, but I have never before been the subject . . . “Step over there. Forward a step. Right-o” Changing setups, changing places, changing clothes. Even my hair.

Very curious.

Tomorrow, I go to New York for something called Media Training. I’m not exactly sure what that consists of, having not yet been trained, but I think they interview me on camera, and we watch it together, and we talk about improving my performance.

What sort of improvements will they have in mind, I wonder? Will I leave the training with my back straight and my head tall? Will I become an ardent Bush supporter? Will I leap from a building, convinced I am Superman?

People are skeptical. They say, “Yeah, right! When pigs fly! You’re always gonna be a geek!”

But pigs do fly. Right now, at the Champlain Valley Fair, pigs are flying around the track, and I am missing it. Just to get ready for this, the appearance of my book. I sure do love a pig race, though. The gate opens, and those pigs thunder around the track, thousands of pounds of rolling bacon-sandwiches-in-the-making, chasing that mechanical Snickers bar. Damn! Thos pigs are fast.

I was seated by the edge of the track once, and two champions tangled it up and hit the railing. Almost crushed me as the rest of the field thundered by. One of the handlers came by, with a bag of Gummi Bears, and got them off me.

I hope at least a few of you will think of me when you attend the pigs races at your county fair. And while you’re there, think of me at the tractor pull, the pie eating contest, and the concerts.

Next week I have reporters and interviews for all sorts of big magazines. Then the Today show is coming to film me. They’re the first of the network television people. There’s radio to get ready for too. Diane Rehm has invited me onto her show, on NPR, and there are more after that. What will I say? Well, I had enough thoughts to fill a book already. Hopefully they won’t desert me now.

I sure am lucky, though, to have the support of all these communities. The Aspergians. The bloggers. The teachers. My friends. I'm sure I'll be OK. All of you believe in me. Meanwhile, I have to go crank up the tractor and mow the meadow and the lawn and then remove my neighbor's dead pine tree.

18 comments:

Cindy said...

Hi John, I know what you are going through. It happened to me last year right before my products were featured in a national magazine. The fear of the unknown - would they like it? Would they respond or ignore it? The difference is, you probably know more of what to expect. The books are already printed, so at least you don't have to deal with that. But the whole personal thing - they're probably wanting to get some of your "differentness" with each interview, right? That might be a little exploitative. Anyway, the best of luck to you. I'm reading one of Augusten's books right now so I sort of feel like I know you guys. And I have an Aspergian kid, too. So smile!

Kanani said...

Here.
Some people will love it.
Others will be indifferent.
And some will find reasons to nitpick.
Many will deluge you with emails as though you are the patron saint of Asperger's.
Others will curse you and decide there is no reason to ever get diagnosed.

You wrote a book. You believe in what you wrote.
There was not one place where you felt you either withheld who you were. And you are impassioned about your cause. You have given every shred of yourself over to discovering who you are, with the help of a lot of people like TR, and all of this media stuff, the appearance stuff is the easiest and most joyful part of your journey.

Drama Mama said...

It seems to me that the hard part is over. The years of not knowing what was going on - am I right? It seems that the book is a culmination of all that you have learned and know about yourself and celebrating your differentness and accepting it and yelling HELL YES to it.

You don't need to look/sound/be anyone else; that's why they're paying you the big bucks. They want YOU.

You have so many communities who love you and are so grateful for who you are and what you can share with us - it doesn't get better than that. Besides, I think you will be MUCH funnier than Jay Leno when you go on the Tonight Show. Or at least better looking.
xo

Kanani said...

John,
I'm meeting with The Writerly Pause folks in about 2 hours. After we talk to Adrienne Kress, we'll see who has received your book. If no one has, I have two copies and I'll loan them out and ask others to find them on alibris.
Sorry we've been so busy. It's the dog days of August.
xx
Kanani

mom to max said...

wow! this is very exciting! i have just come across your blog and i will definitely be buying your book.

i can't say i know how you feel exactly but i am in the same boat on a smaller scale. i have written the first chapter in a book about autism and...i feel scared to death...all exposed. but i think the pros to sharing experiences outweigh the fears. i sure hope so!

wonderful site you have here...you write so well. i hope you don't mind that i link to you.

www.theautismexpress.com

kristen said...

John, I don't have much to offer. A simple "good luck" and a very heartfelt "thank you" for all you are willing to share.

Tena said...

I'm thinking of you not at the county fair but as we head out to an antique car show. There will be nine Packards there, I'm told.

I'm thinking that you have zip to worry about. You are who you are and judging from the support of your blogger fans alone, you are destined to be a star.

I hope you enjoy the experience. Please keep reporting back from the front.

All the best!
Tena

March Day said...

I'm still working on the skill of being in public. I don't do well being in a spotlight of any kind. I admire your courage for tackling this part of it. Me - I'd be begging couldn't we just please publicize this without me?

I'm assuming you will keep us posted as to when all your appearances will air? Please do, because I would really like to catch them.

John Elder Robison said...

Thanks to all of you for your words of encouragement. I hope you are right, and the media stuff is the easiest part.

We'll see soon enough.

And I hope all of you make it out to see me on my tour.

The Anti-Wife said...

I think if you are just true to yourself you'll be great.

John Elder Robison said...

Anti-Wife, I'm always true to myself. As an Aspergian I don't know any other way to be. While I do play practical jokes and trick people, I - like many Aspergians - am totally devoid of the sense of social subterfuge that most normal people possess.

Stephen Parrish said...

I guarantee one of your statements to be correct: your fellow bloggers do indeed believe in you.

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

My baby-to-be is set to debut on the same day as your book (9/26), so I regret that I'll miss you in Madison, WI (the closest you're coming to Chicago). Good luck and maybe we'll meet next year at BEA.

Michael Forbes Wilcox said...

John, sorry you missed the group yesterday. It was small but a great discussion about such things as the difference between process-oriented (NTs) and results-oriented (Aspergians).

You may have seen Tim Page's article in last week's New Yorker. He made a similar comment about "thinking outside the box" {Aspergian response: "What box?"}

In a way, this insight is a bit odd, since it conflicts (at least superficially) with the idea that Aspies like routine. That's different from following rules, when you think about it, but at first it seems contradictory (at least to me)!

I found a copy of your book on eBay, as you suggested, and am well into it now (it just arrived in the mail). It's the book I wish I could have written, and it's a bit heavy going at times because I have to pause and reflect on the feelings it brings to the surface for me.

So far, all I can say is, well done!

John Elder Robison said...

Michael, I'm sorry I missed the group. I'm in New York at media training so I can look presentable on television.

I'm glad you got a book. I will have copies soon myself so the group can read it.

I will try and see you next time, schedule permitting.

It's very peaceful here in my hotel, 500 feet above the city, looking over Central Park. However, it's time to venture down to the street, feed myself, and head for Rockefeller Center.

Chumplet said...

How exciting and scary for you. It's good to know that you have the guidance of the people who know what they're doing. Trust them and you'll get through it.

My own small-scale self-promotion is a lot like my writing -- sliding uncontrollably by the seat of my khaki shorts.

Let us know when the Today interview airs.

Trish Ryan said...

You're gonna do great. I suspect that part of your training may include a caution not to refer to racing pigs as "rolling bacon sandwiches in the making"... I thought it was hysterical, but PETA won't like it at all.

That said however, get a picture of one of those races and your slogan would make a great t-shirt :)

PLANET3RRY said...

As for Pig Races, you should really check out the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati held the first weekend in May (it's on "To Run" list).

I am already spreading your book via word of mouth, which reminds me that I need to pre-order it. My wife and I looked at AS books for our kids and I realized that there are few to none Asperger books by People with Aspergers. I think this books is going to really help alot of people.

Asperger is a spectrum and although we have different "Super Powers", there still is a lot of commonality between myself and other Asperger's (via blogs) out there. I look forward to reading your book... already it has inspired me to jot down personal notes about my experiences. I can now look back and say "Wow, that was so Aspergian of me"

Oh wait... sorry, a little lacking in that empathy department... It's perfectly normal to be nervous! It reminds us that we are alive. Remember to "Relax and Look Ahead" and you'll do great!