Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sex and the (big scary) city

I’m a pretty experienced traveler.

I’ve sailed along Australia's Great Barrier Reef, snorkeled with giant manta rays in Fiji , hiked through the Amazon jungle in Venezuela , climbed in the Swiss Alps, and ridden a camel into the Sahara at sunset to camp in the desert. I love seeing new places and racking up new experiences like notches on my bedpost.


So now I have to confess that I am completely, utterly terrified of traveling to New York City next week for the national convention of Romance Writers of America.

I’m not sure what’s got me so freaked out. Probably a combination of things ranging from my general social awkwardness (the sort that causes me to spit gristle in strangers' purses) to the fact that I have no idea what to wear to a dinner when the invitation includes the phrase, “the limo will pick you up at...”

My only visit to New York consisted of a night spent sleeping on the floor of the JFK Airport in a skirt while blazing with fever from a weird bug I’d just picked up in Morocco. While I’ve certainly spent time in larger cities, there’s something about the idea of this city that terrifies the holy living hell out of me.

Then there’s the fact that I’m a serious, serious introvert. People tend to assume introvert is a synonym for “shy,” which I can promise you is not the case. While I'm capable of being bubbly and outgoing in large groups of strangers, I get my energy from being alone. My fear is that after two days in New York, I’ll be so over-stimulated by human interaction that I’ll end up spending the rest of the week hiding under the bed with my hands over my ears humming Motley Crue's, “Home Sweet Home.”

Fortunately, I have a close girlfriend with a designer handbag boutique and a finely-tuned fashion sense that extends beyond knowing which yoga pants pair best with the mustard-stained t-shirt. I’m bribing her with wine to come over tonight and go through my closet so she can tell me what to wear, what not to wear, and what to burn in my backyard barbecue pit before anyone realizes I actually own something that ugly.

So that helps.

But I’m still freaked. I haven’t had time yet to research the logistics of finding my way from the Newark airport to the Marriott Marquis hotel at 5:30 on a Monday morning, nor have I explored options from getting from there to La Guardia when I head home Saturday.

Hell, for that matter, I’m not even sure how I’m getting from my house to the airport for my 1:30 departure on Sunday afternoon.

I know I need to just chill out. Everything will be fine. I will likely not get lost or mugged or overwhelmed with the sudden urge to climb topless onto a table at an awards banquet and do a finger puppet routine.

Actually, I make no promises on that last one.

But there are some things I’m REALLY looking forward to. For one, I’ll be rooming with uber-cool author pals Jeffe Kennedy (who I’ve never actually met in person but feel like I’ve known for years) and Marcella Bernard (who you may recall came to my rescue when I got a flat tire en route to a conference in Seattle last fall).

For another, I’ll finally, FINALLY get to meet my amazing agent in person. I’ve been represented by Michelle Wolfson for 3.5 years, so it’s about damn time I bought her a drink. Or twelve.

And then I’ll get to meet all the Sourcebooks people, including my editor, Deb Werksman, and all the cool publicity and production people and...

Holy crap. That's a lot of people. I think I need to lie down now.

For those of you who've been to New York (or those who've been to big-ass conferences like this) do you have any tips for me? For my fellow introverts, do you have any tricks for handling extended periods of being "on" in settings like this? Please share. I need all the help I can get!

32 comments :

Sarah W said...

Bring your MP3 speakers and your favorite spa stuff and when things become overwhelming, cancel your afternoon or evening plans and take a long, hot bubble bath in your hotel bathroom.

It's okay to miss one or two events if the result is a calmer, saner you.

Trust me.

Linda G. said...

You're going to have so much fun!

Tip: find out where he male cover models hang out. ;)

Miranda said...

I'm a legit introvert as well (this article says it all: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/2696/). People make me sleepy.

Despite that I moved to New York City when I was 17 and have no plans to leave ten years later. Sounds weird maybe, but I manage to feel blissfully alone here sometimes, I think because of the nature of the place--everyone is so wrapped up in their own nonsense.

Also, headphones. Heh

As a New Yorker I would say:

- Manhattan is not scary once you get to know it (unless you go to Canal Street, BLEH don't go there ever)

- When exiting your hotel, haul ass East for more sanity, West for decent food and peep shows (not at the same time though you could try), North if you want to commit hara-kiri, and South if you want to witness the uninspiring site of Herald Square.

- Times Square is basically full of open-mouthed nitwits from Nebraska who WillNotMove, for the love of all that is good on this EARTH (see above re: walking north--you should do it once for the experience but will probably be uninterested in a return trip). Also lawyers. Neither provide much fun.

- you can schedule a shuttle pickup for cheapish from EWR and then to LGA through Airlink (goairlinkshuttle.com) or SuperShuttle (supershuttle.com though I would recommend Airlink first). Cabs would be about $60 from EWR and $30 to LGA, depending on time of day. P.S. our airports are decrepit

- you can send up a bat signal and the rest of us Innies will come save you from the Outties

- Sarah from Smart Bitches did a great post on foodstuffs around the hotel...I am of the opinion that food near Times Square is mostly crap and folks should look elsewhere if you have the time. I live in Greenwich Village and we have far more deliciousness.

- uhhhh this turned out long. So! Almost-Welcome to NY, happy to have you!!

lora96 said...

If there's a limo, slutty stilettos are indicated. I think that's the law.

I was in NYC once for two days (won a trip) and it was fantastic, plus everyone I met was truly nice and helpful. And I got to go backstage at an art auction at Sotheby's--wanna talk about intimidated?

Allow the coolness of others to surprise you.

Patty Blount said...

You'll also get to meet ME !

Yes, I know you're all a-flutter at that.

I was born and raised in the New York borough of Queens but rarely made it into Manhattan, so I'm a tourist whenever I do visit. It's noisy and crowded and EXPENSIVE and so freakin' much fun. The best part? You can't get lost- the whole island is numbered. :)

Newark Airport is in New Jersey - maybe a 45-minute trip to NYC, depending on traffic.

Here is a link about ground transportation.

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/newyorkcity/0021020193.html

MICHELLE WOLFSON said...

OH MY GOD I'M SO CRAZY EXCITED TO FINALLY MEET YOU THAT I CAN BARELY SEE STRAIGHT!!! AND MY CAPS LOCK KEY IS STUCK IN PERMANENT ON!!!!!

What if we have nothing to say??

JUST KIDDING SO EXCITED!!!!!!!

Miranda said...

I forgot something very important for you (so important that my brain just stopped me mid-work and directed me here): PARKS.

Bryant Park is closest to your hotel and is OK, but if you get a chance, Central Park can be like magic (there are places, like The Ramble, where you can't even see buildings anymore). Take the Queensbound N, Q or R from 49th Street to 5th Ave/59th Street and just wander.

p.s. my new yorker came out in my last comment..I enjoy people from Nebraska. I do not enjoy open-mouthed nitwits of any flavor.

Matthew MacNish said...

Okay. There's too much awesome advice here already, and even though I'm totally shy AND introverted myself, there's not much I can add.

So I'll just say hi.

Hi Tawna, have a great time in NYC!

Patrick Alan said...

I got up early every morning and blogged last year's conference for you. I expect you to return the favor. That way you'll be delirious and incoherent by day 3 like I was.

Tina Moss said...

Miranda already gave you great advice on behalf of New Yorkers, so let me just add...

- Don't be frightened by the subway system. It is far easier to navigate than it appears.

- DO see a Broadway play if you have the opportunity. You can find day of tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square. More info here... http://www.tdf.org/TDF_ServicePage.aspx?id=56

- When sightseeing, do NOT stand in the middle of the sidewalk gaping upward. Chances are you'll get knocked over by angry New Yorkers. Gape, take pictures, but please do it standing to the side. :-)

I couldn't attend RWA this year because of finances, so have a wonderful time for both of us. And take LOTS of pictures.

Charissa Weaks said...

Wish I was going :( But trust me...any girl who can handle a mapanare and being held at gunpoint, not to mention surviving an intestinal parasite, can handle little old New York. Now whether or not New York can handle you is the real question.... :)

Danica Avet said...

I'm with you on the NYC fright factor. I don't do well around a lot of people and am trying to avoid having a panic attack. I mean...my town has maybe 120k people in it. NYC is a completely different universe as far as I'm concerned.

The conference though...that's going to be awesome. I had so much fun last year. I was worried I'd be a wallflower (because of the not liking people thing), but the other writers are just like you are. There are so many icebreakers you can use! Like one lady I met in line arranging transportation back to the airport last year turned around and said "Nora Roberts spilled her soft drink on me!" My response? "That's so awesome!" LOL

I hope to see you lurking around somewhere :)

Skye said...

And remember: there will be Betties! Go connect up via the forums or just a comment and you will find out with Betties will be there. Get together with them for some comfort and sharing. (No, I won't be there. Funds and all that.)

Just remember to give yourself alone time every day, even if it's only 30 minutes. And do yoga breathing. This is from an introvert's introvert, too.

You'll be fine. Have lots of fun!

JJ said...

The check-in lines at the Marriott Marquis take forever so plan extra time just for that. But once you're in, the rooms are comfy. Eating in the hotel is $$$, but there are lots of cafes nearby. And if you find yourself with too many books to carry home, the hotel has a terrific business center or there's a Fed-Ex office over near Radio City Music Hall. Have fun! You've earned it!

Suzi McGowen said...

I'm a major introvert myself. (100% on Myers Briggs). What really helps me? Stuff from home. Soap, shampoo, and yes, towels. Yes, I really bring my own towels from home when traveling to a hotel that is fully stocked with towels.

See if you can work out some "alone time" periods with your roomies? Of find a little used room at the hotel that you can use for alone time?

And drink plenty of water. It will help your body deal with the stress of All. Those. People.

circuitmouse said...

One of those oh-so-many crazy things people have created around the web is tripgeo.com --you can type in the address of your starting point and your destination, then along with the map, it gives you a virtual visual re-creation of your trip which you can manipulate in 360 degrees. Even if you've seen it on the map already, having known what it looks like all around you en route takes away a lot of the anxiety. And New Yorkers are MUCH friendlier than their reputation would have you believe when giving directions.

However, it won't help when it comes to the dancing on tables, I'm afraid.

Mark Simpson said...

Most of what I know about the big apple comes from a college roommate who lived in full-blown Manhattan decadence for several years after school. From what I gather (and since you are asking) here are some impressions.

1) Don't take it personally if someone seems rude as that's just their charming way. Its an intense city filled with intense people. Counter with a sharp quip of your own... a good-natured counter-jab will garner respect.

2) Be your weird self--a topless puppet show probably wouldn't be the strangest thing most of them have seen since breakfast. And anyway you're a writer so its expected. You already fit the template so just go with it.

3) Whatever you anticipate spending...double it and smile.

4) Stay loose and enjoy the moment; this is what you've been working for and you deserve to be there.

Good luck and have fun, you're a big bright shooting star baby! :)

Tawna Fenske said...

Wow, guys! Thanks so much for all the amazing tips! I'm going to be printing this out and memorizing it!

Tawna

Hayley said...

I'm terrorized of the city too. Which is odd because my Uncle lives there and my dad and I go there at least once a year. None the less I have a panic attack every time we get on the train to go there.

My advice is simple, just breathe. It sounds wacky but whenever I was feeling like I was suffocating I just had to remember to breathe. Also to make it all seem less daunting know where you're headed, look at a map and have it in your sights so you don't have to worry about getting lost and such.

As for people just keep a level head try to make friends, or meet up with people you already know, (there is power in numbers) and remember their probably just as nervous as you are!

Julia said...

You might try scheduling some quiet time in the hotel room. At conferences, I often need periods of time in silence and darkness -- so I can recharge and feel ready to interact with crowds again. I've had pretty good success working this out with roomies.

It doesn't bother me if other people are in the room during my quiet time. I just need the silence to reset. If I don't know my roomies particularly well, I just tell them I know I'll be deseperate for a nap during the day. Then, we compare schedules to figure out a good time that works for everyone.

Missy said...

I want to meet you! I feel like I know you!

We live in CT so we ride the train in. We either walk or take the subway every where we go. Enjoy the scenery above or below. Tip: do not ride the subway alone late at night.

You have to go to the M&M store. Make a bag of your favorite colored candies.

Go to the Yankees or Mets game while in town. Cute boys ALWAYS go to sporting events. Pretend that you know the College World Series is taking place in Omaha.

Gay Pride is this weekend so you may experience left overs from the event.

Let me know where you will be, or just look for us! I'll be there with my dad, his new wife, my 8-year-old niece, my 6-year-old nephew, my 33-year-old brother with autism, and my 7- and 10-year-old step children. fun times!!

~ M said...

If you find yourself needing a restroom in Time Square, the cleanest public toilets are in Toys 'R Us.

Liz Hayes said...

As a recent NYC writing conference first-timer, don't stress. There will be people there who've been there a million times, and they'll tell you all you need to know. And more.

You'll find a million taxis at the airport/hotel willing to take you wherever you want to go. Just beware jumping into the unmarked ones. Did this once and it was fine, but a little worrisome mid-trip.

As long as you don't pull a Britney Spears when getting out of the limo, whatever you wear will be fine! The Little Black Dress and heels are classic for a reason, plus you can wear it another day if you throw a blazer or cardigan over it.

Conference rooms will be freezing -- bring a sweater/coverup.

Bring your headphones and plan to veg out at one of the Starbucks you'll find on every corner for down time. I like to go back to my hotel room and de-workshop for an hour at the end of the day, but rooming w/ several people may limit your alone time.

Oh yeah -- HAVE FUN!

Hannah Hounshell said...

A good book and a hot cup of tea can work wonders on ones nerves.

Plus if it's herbal tea it won't keep you up and you can crash while you're still all mellowed out :)

Jeannie Moon said...

You'll be fine! It's a great city and you'll be among friends. See you there.

:)

Trisha Leigh said...

I've been to NYC twice since Jan, both for conferences. It IS over-stimulating (I'm a lot like you when it comes to crowds of people), but for a week or so, it's WONDERFUL and fun. You just have to prepare yourself to be surrounded by people pretty much all the time, wear comfortable shoes (ALWAYS. Don't give into cute shoe temptation because you will regret it), and immerse yourself.

I adore visiting NYC but have decided I don't think I could live there. At least not permanently. I like my space.

You'll have a great time, Tawna. Can't wait to hear about it!

literatelibran said...

Best wishes for your trip! I love your description of yourself, the introvert.

Carrie said...

I completely feel your introverted pain. Just keep telling yourself "this, too, shall pass", and that you'll have some Tawna-time before you know it.

Enjoy! You've earned it.

Claire Dawn said...

I'm a blaring "where's the next party?" extrovert, but I think all writers have a bit of introversion going on.

I think maybe make a plan. See what stuff you have to attend and what you don't. Try to find a few 20 mins/half hours where you can go hide out. Lobby bathrooms in fancy hotels are actually pretty nice. Take a book, grab a stall. :)

Roni Loren said...

I think they should institute workshop breaks so that we can all hide under the table and hum Home Sweet Home.

I went to Nationals for the first time last year and it definitely is exhausting. I'm a serious introvert too, so all that socializing is draining. But it's so much fun that you just go into this manic state/survival mode that you maintain for those four days and then you go home and collapse into a mumbling heap.

Though, last year I didn't really know anyone and this year I have so many people to meet, including (like you) my agent and editor, so I have a feeling this year will be a very different experience.

Just take comfort in knowing that at least 75% of the writers there are socially awkward introverts as well and are feeling the exact same way as we are. :)

Janet Reid said...

New Jersey Transit trains stop at the Newark airport. It's 10 minutes to Penn Station from there. From Penn, a 7 block walk UP Broadway lands you at your hotel. Wave to me (35th Street) as you go by.

To LGA, a cab is safest. $35 most likely.

Transpo in NYC is easy. We ALL have to get around and it's designed to move you quickly and efficiently. Honest!

Kay Elam said...

John's Pizza. It's near your hotel and the best pizza ever. Eat in. Beautiful stained glass windows in the back.

Drink the water--NYC's best kept secret.

Relax (yeah, right) and have fun.