Friday, 28 May 2010

The Problem With Panels

The problem with public appearances is the fear. The days of low-level anxiety beforehand over what to wear - no, those shoes just won't do, and that dress is too much - until you start to feel like a character in a Noel Streatfield novel and long for a plucky Nanny to run you up a little something out of the drawing room curtains. Then the eight hours of concentrated fear beforehand, in which you worry about what on earth to say. The inability to eat, combined with the fact that you know you need to keep your blood sugar up so you keep nibbling at things and then discarding them like some spoilt kid in a Frances Hodgson Burnett novel.

Followed by half an hour of outright irrational terror as you stand around politely with your fellow panel people and assure each other you all have no idea what you're talking about. And then you're up there and everyone's looking at you and yes, you are the token woman, and people take your photo and your mind goes blank as soon as any question refers back to a previous comment because you're operating on pure adrenaline and charm and you're smiling and nodding and thinking, how on earth can I phrase this completely erudite thought in fucking German, so you have a two-minute delay operating and by the time you've worked it out the conversation's moved on and you make your entire profession look like a bunch of monosyllabic morons with fixed grins.

And then it's over, and being a well brought-up kind of girl who wants to be good and kind like in a Susan Coolidge novel, you stick around and smile a bit more. And presumably you've managed to appear not entirely terrified, because nobody reassures you that you were great, or you were fine, or you were better than the guy on the right, or your shoes looked nice. At which point the post-panel paranoia kicks in, presumably an after-effect of the adrenaline, and yes, that guy's ignoring you, and no, nobody important wants to talk to you, and yes, that other guy really did just ask your fellow panel person standing two feet to the left of you to join them all in a restaurant and looked straight through you.

And then you join them in a restaurant even though you'd rather either curl up in a ball in bed or go on a raging drunken tour of strip clubs and karaoke bars and pick up Mormons on the street and seduce them. And a collossal bad mood creeps up on you, unsurprisingly seeing as you haven't eaten in hours, but the thought of food turns your stomach and you're trying to talk to the two people you genuinely like at the table without revealing the extent of your foul temper like in a Louisa May Alcott novel - shit, probably not like in a Louisa May Alcott novel, but at this point who cares?

And you leave and walk home and write angry adrenaline-fuelled emails and can't sleep because you keep sitting up in bed and shouting. Which doesn't happen in any of the books you read as a child so you don't have a frame of reference to deal with it.

Shit, if I did this all the time I'd have a heroin habit.

Update: There is photographic evidence. I'm the one with the nice shoes.

7 comments:

isabo said...

If you did this all the time, you'd probably have a panel habit.

Jan Groh said...

Katy, you really did very well. And you had a very nice complexion. And a very nice, by no means frozen smile. You did not even look hungry or starved.
My only critic concerning the panel discussion (i.e. the moderator) would be that the cultural process of translation itself was hardly appreciated but only regarded in the context of selling books to readers who can't read German. Thus translation was somewhat reduced to an economic necessity - and that's a pity but definitely not your fault. I think a foreign publisher instead of one of the authors would have served the event very well and would have accentuated your role / the role of translation in the international context.
Way to go, Katy - and get some sleep and food :-)

annina said...

Short version: I agree with Jan.
Extendet: http://wordsonawatch.blogspot.com/2010/05/german-language-difficult-language-how.html ;)

Jan Groh said...

The shoes.

manan said...

And once again, a thoroughly WIN of a post. I was recently a subject of such a night - minus the panel part and well. I wish I had come to your panel, however. Just my cup o tea.

Harvey Morrell said...

Someone has been working overtime on her Axolotl translation....

What's worse, you didn't mention that Maxim Biller was there; I had to read Annina's account to glean that tidbit. :)

kjd said...

Maybe that was it, Harvey. Too much Mifti.

But in fact I didn't mention at all who was there. For all you know the place could have been chock-full of literary celebrities.