A few months ago, the nice young publicist from my publishing company called. He’d just had a call from a producer at the TODAY show! Did I have any television clips to send them? Um, yes, just let me dust off all those VHS tapes of the sitcom I starred in during the ‘80s.
I have no television experience. In fact, I’m one of those people who, when a video camera is pointed in my direction, turns so wooden that I need to stay away from matches and make sure I’ve got a fire extinguisher stashed nearby. I’m shy. I get flustered. When telling amusing anecdotes, I frequently go off on tangents that make sense to me but, sadly, leave everyone else puzzled.
Cameras make me nervous. (They’re watching me, judging me!) I told the publicist I didn’t have any clips. He said it wasn’t a problem at all — just have my husband shoot a couple minutes of video of me talking about my book. He could even use an iPhone. Fine, I thought. Two minutes is nothing. Especially since it’s a topic I know well. Piece of cake.
I put on a turquoise shirt and dabbed concealer on the dark circles under my eyes (which are not, technically, circles, but semi-circles). They now looked like makeup-caked dark semi-circles. A little lipstick would brighten things up, so I smeared some on. I don’t normally wear makeup, but since this was for television, I was willing to suffer. I grinned into the mirror. A crazed woman gazed back at me. We could do this! Jeff dragged a lawn chair underneath the Camellia tree, which was in bloom with pink flowers. Perfect. I sat and Jeff bent down, holding the camera eye level. I attempted a smile, but it was more of a grimace.
“Hi, I’m ….”
I forget my name.
Take two: “Hi, I’m Sue Sanders and my book is ….”
I forget the name of my book.
Take three: I remember the title of my book, but my words get all gummed together in my mouth and everything comes out as incomprehensible gibberish.
Take four: Beautiful! Except our neighbor decides to power-wash her fence at that particular moment. She kindly agrees to wait until we’re done. (Sidebar: we hit the neighbor jackpot.)
Take five, six, seven: Children next door play tag. They go inside. Come outside to play in their super-cool tree house. (Sidebar II: not only are all our neighbors great, they’re also very handy.)
Take eight. Forget what the hell I’m talking about.
Take nine, ten, eleven: We move to front porch and I sit in our wooden swing, flowering honeysuckle vine behind us. Not only will it be gorgeous on-camera, it smells great — aromatherapy! Except, I discover whenever I sit in a swing I will, without fail, rock gently. The video is blurry.
Take twelve: Try hard to keep porch swing still. Fail.
Take thirteen, fourteen: We return to the backyard. Stumble and slur my words. My stories run into each other and collide in fiery crashes. I no longer remember what my book is about and no longer care. I wonder why I can’t simply sit in my dark office and tap away on my keyboard. What does this publicity stuff have to do with writing? I check my Amazon numbers and realize exactly why I need publicity. No one will read a book they don’t know exists. So I become filled with existential angst. We are all just forces that are acted upon. Except acting involves cameras and cameras are sucking out my soul.
Take fifteen: Ponder why so many primitive cultures believe having photos taken steals their soul. Empathize with them. Daydream about moving in with the Toulambi of Papua, New Guinea.
Take sixteen to thirty-seven: We move around yard and then go into our house, where it’s too dark. We return to that beautiful tree. It feels right and then … wasps! A nest of wasps have made their home in the Camellia tree and they want to frolic. Like noisy little groupies, they’re drawn to Jeff.
Take thirty-eight: Start laughing hysterically.
Take thirty-nine: Stop laughing. Start sobbing.
We spent an entire day attempting — and failing — to shoot a two minute video. Jeff pieced together a few minutes into something presentable, with seams only slightly less jagged than a Frankenstein monster’s (which, by this time I was beginning to feel like). I sent it to the publicist, who sent it on to TODAY. They didn’t call.
So this morning I headed off to our local ABC affiliate, KATU, with all this going through my mind. I assumed that If I didn’t tell anyone I was going to be on television, they wouldn’t watch. Therefore, they’d never know if I made a complete ass out of myself and forgot my name.
But, as I’ve discovered (but apparently have not yet learned), if you don’t try new things, you can’t have new experiences. Ones that will make great memories or anecdotes that I can mangle. And my friends do want to know about this stuff and to support me. And true friends don’t care if you look like a stuttering moron on TV.
Also, because the host introduced me, I didn’t even need to remember my name.