Ups and downs: from knee-jerk anxiety to reasoning and back again.

I’ve been trying to most of the morning to figure out how I truly feel about the GRL2013 debacle.

I woke up this morning feeling fairly upbeat, for all that I’ve been quite ill and feeling physically crummy. Then I got an email from a friend asking what I thought about the subject and at first I — who had only skimmed the GRL newletter last night for details about when I could register — had no idea what she was talking about and assumed that if people were wanking over it, it was probably tempest in a teapot drama. Then I read the newsletter and  next thing I knew, my heart was in my throat.

For those of you who haven’t been following the kerfuffle on FB and Twitter, it goes something like this: GayRomLit, which I had previously assumed was mostly about the author’s networking, announced last evening that they are trying to make the event more about the readers.

First, they have changed the author to reader ratio from 150/250 to 100/300. That, I can kinda-sorta see, though I’m not sure how it can possibly follow. If they want authors to be footing a bigger share of the bill, shouldn’t they be making space for MORE authors instead of less? More authors = more money, yes? And since most authors in the genre are readers as well, it stands to follow that this convention is just as much about them as it is about the “readers” (i.e. the one’s who haven’t actually published.) So why not create for spots for the ones paying the higher registration fee?

But whatever, maybe there is some obscure logic going on there to which I’m not privy. The problem came with the announcement that 30 of the 100 author spots (which were sure to sell like hotcakes already) have been blocked off for “must-have” authors.

That’s where the first knee-jerk comes in, and I fully confess it is a knee-jerk. I think most of us in this genre had an inherent distaste for anything smacking of elitism and exclusivity. I mean, some of the authors whom I assume implemented this policy were, this time last year, throwing back their heads and howling when same-sex romance was shut out of certain Romance Writers of America competitions. We are a genre that is supposed to be about INCLUSIVITY. We’re supposed to be about non-discrimination. We are supposed to be open to everyone.

“Must-have” authors. Golly. Wow. What a controversy-laden term. My God. Doesn’t that sound just a little bit like we’re separating out the jocks from the geeks for table assignments in the junior high cafeteria? I’m not saying it’s a rational reaction, in that anyone who sits down and thinks about it for two minutes will realize that the people who made the decision and wrote that fateful phrase are no doubt extremely nice people who almost certainly didn’t mean it that way, and yet…and yet…

Knee-jerk reactions don’t care about logic. It’s pure reptile-brain. And even once you talk yourself down from the ledge by trying to reason it out in your mind, the hurt remains.

How can those who know they won’t get one of those selected spots feel like they’ve been anything BUT excluded? They don’t rate. They’re not good/popular/important enough.

For a genre that is all about standing up for the rights of people who are deemed second-class citizens in much of the world, the wording — if not the decision itself — was an act of extremely poor judgment.

So, yeah. Knee-jerk reaction all over the place. My heart was in my throat, my pulse was pounding, my stomach felt hollow, and I couldn’t breathe.

What’s that? Anxiety attack, you say?

Why, yes. Which isn’t an entirely unreasonable reaction for someone with social anxiety in a situation that is guaranteed to hit all their worst triggers regarding feelings of being unequal, unwanted, unworthy, and unliked.

Somehow, I don’t think I’m alone in this. We authors are, after all, a very reclusive lot on the whole. I’m sure more than one of us has trouble with crowds. For me, the miracle of going to GRL was that for the first time in as long as I could remember, the prospect of going to something where there would be a lot of other people, most of whom I didn’t know, didn’t fill me with reluctance and dread.

I was looking forward to it. And now I’m not. Now I feel the same way about GRL that I feel about any social event. I feel that I will be stuck propping up the wall, with no one speaking to me or acknowledging me. I feel I’ll be too awkward to reach out and try to introduce myself to others, absolutely certain that if I DID try to reach out and introduce myself to others, it would be unwelcome and the others would simply humor me to be polite while they were secretly thinking I was weird and just wishing I would go away.

Oh, and hey look, here come the tears.

So, yeah, this is all knee-jerk. How can it be anything but when you hit someone’s triggers that hard. Yes, triggers. This is a post-traumatic reaction on my part.

When you hit my triggers, I get scared, and then I get angry, and then I start striking back at the thing that feels threatening to me. So, I’ve made a few snarky tweets and I’ve pointed out one very valid point that absolutely needs addressing.

The other part of GRLs attempt to work out the funding for the event is that they are arranging some sort of vague “each to his own ability” pay arrangement for the publishers. Which I believe means the largest publishers will pay more and the smaller presses will pay less. Which doesn’t sound that bad, right?

Except for that bit about the “must-have” authors list. Suppposedly these authors were skimmed from the top of a survey last year’s attendees were given. Except at least a few attendees from last year never got that survey and cannot verify that it ever existed.

In the absence of any better transparency, doesn’t it look like maybe what is going on here is that the publishers who are going to foot the largest portion of the bill might get preferential treatment in having their authors spotlighted?

Again, this is me lashing back. No doubt nothing so sinister is going on and I know that. I know there is probably a perfectly valid explanation that has nothing to do with any such conspiracy. But when you hurt me, I strike back, and right there is the chink in the armor where all of this is concerned.

The rational part of me REALLY hopes this is all a misunderstanding. The rational part of me REALLY wants this all cleared up and satisfactorily explained. Because the rational part of me wants to feel good about the prospect of going to GRL again, rather than miserable and panicky.

But right now, the reptile-brain is largely running the show, and I just feel hurt and anxious.

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7 Comments

Filed under Musings

7 responses to “Ups and downs: from knee-jerk anxiety to reasoning and back again.

  1. ((((Amelia))))) Don’t feel like that. I am remaining positive and trusting the organizers to clarify this mess. Let’s wait til then, okay? I’ve attended the event both years and can’t say enough good things about it. Hopefully it will remain the same 🙂

  2. Well, how are you feeling after their clarification? I have to admit that while some logical part of me understands it, I’m still not sure I agree with what they’ve chosen to do. Regardless, being like you–a Libra with social anxiety issues–I very much want to give them the benefit of the doubt, and be fair to them, but my triggers were pushed hard, too. Like you, there were tears. Like you, I’m anxious about attending now. I had been moderately excited and now I just feel dread–and certainty that if I even try to register I won’t ‘make it’ because there are only 30 spots I qualify for anyway. It’s pretty disappointing. I’m…at an emotional loss with it all.

    • Yeah, I think jockeying for those limited Supporting Author slots is what is causing me the most stress now. I really actually don’t like competition of that sort. I don’t like feeling like I’m queued up, waiting to sprint at the sound of the starting gun. I don’t like trying to elbow others out of the way to get in before they do. If I wanted to play that game, I’d be shopping at Walmart when they open for Black Friday sales. I have skipped things I really wanted to go to in order to avoid that. I find it frustrating that whether or not I attend as an author is solely dependent upon me racing to get in the moment registration starts. Ugh. It’s tacky and distasteful and stressful and…*shudder*. Hate that shit.

      Another author made a good point to me in email this morning, which is that GRLs business model is deeply flawed and they’re financing things ass-backward. They are trying to run this like a trade convention, when they should be running it like a fan convention. Seeing as how this author has been organizing fan conventions for decades, she has some expertise on the subject, and I’m going to suggest to her that she offer to help them get their shit together next year.

  3. Reblogged this on Leta Blake and commented:
    As an incredibly new author and one who didn’t necessarily know if she was going to even attempt to attend GRL (and still isn’t sure), I saw one comment that made a lot of sense to me. An author named Daniel suggested that if they’d wanted to give those 30 authors the readers requested a heads-up, they could have sent them all personal messages saying, “We’ve been alerted that readers very much want you at this con. This is the day and time registration opens, it’s first come, first serve, but we and your readers would really love to see you there!” I thought that was a decent comment on a possible solution to this situation.

    From the outside looking in, the main problem seemed to be the communication of the changes. The newsletter was so poorly worded that it’s kind of amazing. The clarification was worded much, much better and it probably would have gone over better as an initial communication about the topic. It is kind of a shame that they didn’t release that the wording of the first was so…problematic. (Although, the bit in the clarification post about how important it is to keep the stress levels of the better known authors–who have most likely attended plenty of cons–at a low level is kind of hilariously off-putting, too. I mean, newbie authors are super busy people as well, probably holding down a day job still, running a family, and trying to write/market; not to mention they are also probably a whole lot more stressed about attending a con situation for the first time–much more stressed than a well-known author who has been to many.)

    I think they knew quite well that a kerfuffle was going to come of it, otherwise their original newsletter probably wouldn’t have needed a multi-paragraph reminder that they are all volunteers and do this for the love of it and please, for the love of God, don’t crucify us.

    I, for one, am not upset or angry. I feel like I’m watching it from a bird’s eye view because I didn’t have a dog in the fight, so to speak. From the outside looking in, they just really bungled the communication side of things, imho. This could have been avoided by seriously thinking through how to present this whole thing. I wonder if the person who penned the “must-have author” line spent the day in bed with covers over their heads yesterday, because I’m quite sure the hurt feelings that came out of that were something he/she never intended.

    Anyway, it’s an interesting mess. I’m curious how it will play out. I haven’t decided if I will attempt to attend or not. It’s in driving distance for me which makes it appealing, but as a newbie author who is already a socially anxious person, this kerfuffle has made it look like a pretty scary thing to attempt. Maybe since I’m so stressed about it they could give me a pre-registration time and hold my hand through all the steps of the process? Just kidding.

    After their clarification, which can be found here, I have to admit that while some logical part of me understands what they are attempting, I’m still not sure I agree with what they’ve chosen to do. Regardless, being a Libra with social anxiety issues, I very much want to give them the benefit of the doubt, and be fair to them, but, like Amelia, my triggers were pushed hard here. Like her, there were tears. Not because I won’t be a special invited person, I already knew that, but because I was able to imagine the grueling, exhausting, emotional let-down of it all so clearly. Triggers pushed. Like her, I’m anxious about attending now. I had been moderately excited and now I just feel dread–and certainty that if I even try to register I won’t ‘make it’ because there are only 30 spots I qualify for anyway. It’s pretty disappointing. I’m…at an emotional loss with it all. Though, as I said, I’m still waiting to see how it all shakes out.

  4. Pingback: GRL from a Socially Anxious Newbie Perspective | Leta Blake

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