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Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Curse of the Overly-Enthused


During this brief sojourn, I've collected a few recurring observations of Hong Kong's 'literary world.' I apply quotations to 'literary world' since surely one cannot presume to have experienced any sort of 'world' based on a two-day symposium and a flurry of random talks, but here I go, presuming anyway.

1) Introducing yourself to others is a big and scary crapshoot. The person you just introduced yourself to could be any of the following: bored rich person, executive know-it-all, celebrated author, cultural dabbler, eager young student, crusty old creep, avid reader, or just plain asshole. There goes half an hour. Guzzle, guzzle.
2) A LOT of people like to quote Eliot's "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock." May want to reconsider the Prufrock references in my current manuscript. ... Screw it. Keeping 'em.
3) Passing out your card to everyone may elicit mockery from time to time. Get over it. There's the off chance that someone will not turn around and bin it, but cherish it for all it's worth. $0.07 and a truckload of gumption.
4) Unabashed enthusiasm tends to make others wary, especially authors and agents. It's possible they are on the look out for potential stalkers. The wide eyes of enthusiasm are too difficult to distinguish from the wide eyes of mania.

Let's focus, for a moment, on 4. I am a ridiculously enthusiastic person. Well, most of the time. I'm the one who's shaking your hand and telling you how great you were onstage. Thing is, I actually mean it. It doesn't take a whole lot to impress me, so take what you will from it, but the enthusiasm is genuine. What I've found in the past week and change is that this enthusiasm can sometimes lead others to employ the slow back away, wondering what it is you want from them, or what it is you expect to glean from their awesomeness. I get it. I was approached by an eager member of the audience when I was the featured reader at an open mic recently and I remember being a little bit afraid of his wide eyes.

The thing is, I've never been the cool, collected type, and do not wish to be. What I do wish, however, is that I was just a tad less sensitive about being a dork.

Dialing down sensitivity is not one of my strong suits. It's not even near the closet. This leads to the following scenario, which has been happening quite often:
Jenn goes up to [insert author, artist, person with the cool hat, here]. Grins. "Hi, I'm Jenn! Can I give you my card?" (Yes, Gauche is my middle name. Right after Dork.) Subject [smiles/raises eyebrows/laughs] and accepts the 300 gsm matte with spot UV card shoved towards them. A few [seconds/minutes] of chit chat before parting ways. Fast forward to next run-in with said [author, artist, hat aficionado]. Jenn waves excitedly. "Hi, how are you?" Subject smiles uncertainly, employs slow back away. Jenn's bold, over-excitable, self-conscious slug of a soul shrinks, slumps into the safety of its shell, and replays scenes of rejection, imagined or real, until the emergency generator of reason kicks into gear. The lights turn back on.

In literary festival wonderland, the one author/VIP that has made the slug in me feel most welcome has been the Pulitzer winner, the one you'd actually expect to be stand-offish. Junot Diaz was hands-down the nicest and most unassuming. He seems to have true compassion for wanna-be writers. It's encouraging in the best way: each time I've heard him speak, I run home and write.

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