Tag Archives: social anxiety

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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