Monday, 28 March 2016


by Michelle Robinson

Event coming up? Worried you’ll forget to WORRY about something? Fret no more. This handy checklist of unnecessary anxieties is guaranteed to have you losing sleep for weeks.
  1. I will not find the venue.
  2. I will find the venue is insalubrious.
  3. I will turn up on the wrong day/week/month/continent.
  4. My car will break down or else I will crash it. Probably into the venue. Or the children.
  5. The train will be cancelled. The train will break down. I will crash the train.
  6. I will be late. I will be flustered. Everything will go wrong.
  7. I will be early. I will still be flustered. There will be no excuse for anything to go wrong, and yet absolutely everything will.
  8. I will have to cancel due to crippling anxiety and/or illness. I will let everyone down. I will damage my reputation and no on will ever ask me to do an event again. Fingers crossed.
  9. The promised essentials (powerpoint, flip chart, paper, pens, valium, etc.) will not materialise.
  10. I will leave my books at home.
  11. I will leave my memory stick at home with my slideshow on it.
  12. I will remember the memory stick, but will bring the wrong file, most likely something inappropriate or incriminating.
  13. The event organiser will be unable to conceal their disappointment in me.
  14. The children will boo and chant, “WE WANT THE GRUFFALO.”
  15. I will have to read ‘The Gruffalo.’
  16. No one will turn up. 
  17. Everyone will turn up.
  18. Johnny Depp will turn up and I will not be able to think of the first thing to say to him.
  19. Nose bleed.
  20. Panic attack.
  21. Fainting.
  22. Sudden inexplicable onset of Tourette’s. 
  23. Earthquake.
  24. Volcano.
  25. Tsunami.
  26. Alien invasion.
  27. Brain drain.
  28. Someone will look at me funny, putting me off my stride so badly I launch involuntarily into a musical number from Grease.
  29. The children will be Mensa protégés who correct me on my grammar.
  30. A child will ask a question that destroys or unhinges me.
  31. I will fall flat on my face. 
  32. I will catch shingles from lingering pox on the venue carpet.
  33. These are pre-school children. I could even catch bubonic plague.
  34. The organiser will not have arranged book sales.
  35. The organiser will expect me to bring along books and cash float. They will also expect me to do maths while talking and signing books for children with names like, "Eve, spelled Yvxwezfgh."
  36. I will not sell a single book and everyone will know I am a loser.
  37. No one will offer me a drink all day.
  38. Someone will offer me a drink but I will start choking on it, mid-story.
  39. I will choke to death in front of everybody.
  40. I will not be able to locate the loo.
  41. I will have an accident.
  42. Looking for the loo, I will enter the broom cupboard and have to style it out.
  43. …resulting in a request to read ‘Room on the Broom.’
  44. My family will resent me for spending time away from home.
  45. My children will forget what I look like.
  46. My husband will think I am away so much I must be having an affair.
  47. I will go all that way and - assuming #18 did not happen - there will not be anyone worth having an affair with.
  48. No one would want to have an affair with me anyway: I arrive a witless, charmless mess dressed as an impoverished bag lady.
  49. A local newspaper journalist will come and take a horrible photo, capturing my dishevelled bag lady look forever and making it the most prominent image result for me in Google.
  50. The photo will appear in the paper with the caption, ‘Not even Julia Donaldson’.
  51. The photo will not appear, being deemed less newsworthy than a sponsored shoeshine. 
  52. My publishers will not even notice that I am hauling my arse all over the country to promote our book.
  53. My publishers will notice, but will be too busy celebrating the umpteenth reprint of ‘The Gruffalo' to care.
  54. My publishers will see the terrible national newspaper write-up with the unfortunate photo of me, book aloft, smiling, beside the burning venue and sobbing children.
  55. There will not be cake.
  56. There will be cake, but I will choke on it.
  57. Repeat anxiety #39.
  58. They will ring to cancel when I am five minutes away because, “We thought you had written ‘The Gruffalo'.”
  59. Julia Donaldson will turn up, dressed as the Gruffalo, and deck me.
  60. Some manner of very public, non-choking related death.
I’m worried I’ve omitted a load of things I ought to be worrying about. Please share any fears I’ve yet to consider below. Don't worry, folks. You'll be great. After all, you’ve got this anxiety thing nailed. 

Not a bad effort.
Not even Julia Donaldson.
Michelle Robinson's latest book, 'Goodnight Spaceman' is out on April 7th. She has many events scheduled this year and has a few of her own unique fears:-
  1. Everyone will be disappointed that I am not Tim Peake.
  2. If Tim Peake were watching my event from space, he would be disappointed.
  3. They only invited me because they are hoping I can introduce them to Tim Peake. Disappointment is inevitable.

'Goodnight Spaceman' is published by Puffin, illustrated by Nick East and features a very special foreword by ESA astronaut, Tim Peake. 


Pippa Goodhart said...

I cycled into town with a daughter last week, and we were walking along the pavement and chatting about trainers when I spotted an A-frame notice that - heart fail moment - was advertising a book reading by me that I'd forgotten about! But fortunately isn't until next Saturday and so I can still arrive as if I know what I'm doing... or not! NB To daughter's embarrassment I did lick a finger and wipe out an 'e' to correct the spelling of my name.

Michelle Robinson said...

That was fortunate - and another anxiety to add to the list. 'What if I forget to show up?' I hope it goes well, Pippa.

Paeony Lewis said...

Ha ha, I bet you're brilliant, Michelle! Number 49 haunts me too and why is it that only the terrible photos appear in Google image search?
Here's another worry that happened to me: already late as caught in mega traffic jam (caused by accident) and then arrive to find car park closed for repair and only double yellow lines for what seems like miles. Now I always ask in advance about parking!

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Now that's scary. Out of all of them, that's the one that has me nervous...

LuWrites said...

Thanks for making me laugh so much first thing in tbe morning. Have suffered anxiety about everything on the list (though replace Julia Donaldson with the lovely, young, talented and prolific YA Writer Holly Bourne) - and maybe add to list conviction you'll forget how to speak English, possibility of having embarassing heart attack/stroke on stage, and strong probability of vomming over the audience... :-)

Jane Clarke said...

Lol, thanks Michelle!

Tamsyn Murray said...

Am event organiser *has* been disappointed I am not Julia Donaldson. True story.

Johnny Depp has never come to one of my events. Damn him....

Moira Butterfield said...

Now THIS is close to my heart! I'm doing my first event in years next week, at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. At the last festival I did a few years ago I got such a horrible panic attack the night before I haven't done any since. I've never had one before or since but it felt like a heart attack and it was very upsetting. But I've been working up to it. I made this one a workshop - less children - and I've even taken up meditation and been to improv classes in order to feel confident enough to start appearing again. What could possibly go wrong...? Stay calm! Stay calm! Seriously, though - It is a difficult thing for some. I think doing the events regularly will be the only way to conquer the nerves.

LuWrites said...

Good luck with your event, Moira - I really feel for you. Wish I had a younger, more articulate, confident author double who could go out and do events for me!

Moira Butterfield said...

I'm going to channel someone I reckon - Haven't decided who it is yet but probs a TV presenter I like! Suggestions welcome : )

Alice Hemming said...

Funny and true! Your new book looks lovely. Related to #35, I will forget how to write my own name (missed an L out of Alice once)/sign the wrong name / use the wrong pen and create black splodges in all the shiny new books. Oh and I might be asked to sing (by nursery children). This has happened and I am not a great singer. And all the clothing-related anxieties. I might ladder my tights/be drenched from head to foot by a passing lorry/lose the heel of my shoe under a tube train (don't ask).

Unknown said...

Haha - relating to all of that!

eoin said...

Love #59. A terrifying thought.

malachy doyle said...

I turned up once and, somehow, the class were expecting an illustrator, not an author. The children didn't mind, but the teacher was unable to hide her disappointment - from the moment I arrived till the moment I left.

Michelle Robinson said...

It'll be great, Moira! Part of the reason I wrote this post was to see my fears for what they are: a bit daft. What's the worst that can happen? (Apart from the choking to death thing.) It's just an event. In reality you can turn up and say BOTTOMS and the kids will be happy, and if the kids are happy, the grown ups are too. Good luck!

Michelle Robinson said...

I'm glad this post resonates with so many of you, although sorry to hear of such scarring experiences - eesh! I've been unable to respond properly due to MAJOR WRITER'S ANXIETY #1: SUDDEN LAPTOP DEATH. It won't resurrect. I'm told most everything should be 'in the cloud' but this means nothing to me.

Jonathan Allen said...

There is a also the fear of being boring. Nobody responding to your funny stuff and the organiser refusing to pay you for such a load of rubbish.
I want to see video of Julia Donaldson turning up as The Gruffalo and decking you. A youtube sensation in the making. . . ;-)

Michelle Robinson said...

It could happen, Jonathan - the decking thing, I mean, not you being boring or unfunny. If you wear the official Gruffalo mascot costume you're not allowed to talk, drink alcohol or smoke while 'in character'. As far as I'm aware, though, there's no rule about brawling...

Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

The good news is, once you've faced down a few of these worries as reality is gets easier to address all the rest.

I had to present to 70+ kids without my powerpoint a few weeks back. I had a helper standing up showing off my A4 "me version" of my slides to try and offer a degree of the awesome visual that was supposed to go with it but it was definitely significantly harder to keep them all engaged. But we survived and they still had a blast.  

The number of times I've left books at home. But I remind myself that for the most part, my speaking events don't convert to on-the-day sales anyway (because I present to kids, not parents) (although there's always a small upswing of sales after the fact).

I was having a freak out a few weeks ago thinking, "What if the person who hired me is a complete fraud, doesn't work where he says he does, and is completely wasting my time." I almost opted to cancel because I felt so uneasy about it but I didn't even say anything to him. Then he paid me in advance and ALL of those worries went away because, I mean, if he is a fraud and there are no kids and I rock up to the venue for nothing, Hey I'm already paid, who cares. lol Thankfully he wasn't a fraud and the whole event came together smoothly. But it's funny the odd worries we have sometimes and how the universe sometimes steps up to deal with them for us.

*shudders* 35 is horrible. Lots of people seem to think you can take sales and sign books at the same time. I've gotten into the habit of bringing a helper with me if I'm expecting to sell and sign at an event.

And, the great thing about being a children's author is the audience is hyper-forgiving. :-) Although, if you're going to break out into song, I recommend picking something that might resonate more recognisably with the age group. Maybe the theme song to The Gruffulo? ;-)