Thursday, 29 September 2016

The fine art of public appearances when you're a socially awkward 'embarrassing dad' - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

There's a few good reasons why we sadly don't go to many "book things" and I'm sure many other book bloggers will feel the same pain. A) we live a long way from London and B) they always seem to happen there and C) I work all day, and it's nigh on impossible to drop everything and go to book things for a couple of hours in any given evening.

There is also an option D. You see, being a bit shy and socially awkward, it's virtually impossible to go along to these things and look like you belong there. The prospect of meeting fantastic authors and illustrators often leads to "Embarrassing Dad" syndrome. Eeek!

My wife, an acute observer of my many, many failings (love her to bits, honestly I do!) pointed out that whenever we DO go to any book signings, author events or book festivals, I'm completely hopeless when it comes to actually interacting with folk I've been writing nice things about.

"You mumble!" she says (which is true, mumbling is my rather hopeless defence for not having anything clever to say 'off the cuff' a lot of the time. Mumbling is the introvert's "Ctrl-Z" where you can comfortably assume that if someone hasn't heard you properly, you've gotten away with saying something really cringeworthy).

"You didn't even introduce yourself properly!" she says (which again is true, I usually try to introduce myself something like "Hi there author / illustrator megastar (whom I secretly am in complete love with and make wax effigies of and hold impromptu tea parties with said wax effigies and...), I'm Phil otherwiseknownasreaditdaddyyesthatberkwhosaysdaftthingsontwitterandwritesablogwithmydaughterwhoistherealstaroftheshowanddoesallthehardwork"

(I made up the wax effigies bit, but that brings us neatly to point three...

"You come across like some sort of weird stalker sometimes!" (in that I talk to the folk, know a bit about them, and usually try to strike up a conversation based around what they do, or something they've talked about on social media, or even how lovely their shirt / blouse looks).

Charlotte, bless her, treats all this with what's fast become her trademark reaction to most things "Daddy" does. A silent sideways eyeroll more devastating than a 20 megaton nuclear blast, designed beautifully to shut me down as quickly as possible.

Those 'hallowed' few of you who've actually A) met me and B) interacted with me or managed to wring a conversation out of me know that once you get to know me, I'm really not that bad but at book events the frenetic excitement of knowing you're sharing a space with a bunch of folk who think like you do, and more often than not, absolutely adore books, comics, illustrative stuff - is too much to bear and leads to even more embarrassing dad behaviour.

Charlotte once half-mockingly pointed out that we shouldn't have to queue up at events "because we're famous, we're ReadItDaddy!" and I had to impart what I hoped would be a valuable future life lesson. Fame is a fickle beast, and the sort of 'fame' (if you can call it that, I think it's closer to infamy than fame) we enjoy from writing about books on a book blog is no golden ticket to any sort of special treatment.

We pay for and queue up at events, we buy our own tickets, we meet authors and illustrators who've met a zillion other book bloggers and journalists who are probably far less embarrassing than us (OK, me) so it's part of the job.

She didn't initially take this revelation well. I have a sneaking suspicion that as she gets older she'll understand what I was trying to say (because here we are near the end of the editorial and I've no bloody idea what the point I was trying to make was). I hope though that she has acres more self-confidence. She was already brassy enough to, completely unprompted, demand that a well-known comic-writing-and-drawing dude put her in his next story (I stood some distance away at this point looking mildly horror-struck once I realised what was going on, frozen to the spot and not quite knowing whether to let her get on with it or drag her away, embarrassedly apologising while doing so!

Thankfully he's a good egg and took it in his stride, cheers Neill!) Perhaps this is the future of ReadItDaddy, helmed by someone who can take it to the next level! Perhaps I need to be more ninja in my approach and not a shy retiring wallflower of a book blogger.

Of course, there are many folk who've made the transition from internet fame to real actual "I'm going to be on the next series of Celebrity Strictly I'm a Bake-off Big Brother Get me the HELL out of here". Young, beautiful people who can convince zillions of YouTube viewers that they know their stuff and have wisdom to impart far beyond their years. I could see Charlotte being like that one day but me, hahahahahahaha no never, not ever. Looking like a slightly disgruntled Mitchell brother with a speaking voice that sounds like I've never really got the hang of human speech patterns really doesn't lend itself well to TV, book or movie deals.

Next up: Starting a Book VLOG. Why you should never, ever, EVER do this unless you're A) ridiculously good looking and bang on trend and B) have an awesome beard.