Answering a Halloween Dare

It’s my favorite holiday, it’s my favorite holiday, it’s my favorite holiday…la-dee-da-dee-dum.

Happy Halloween to everyone! I’m back from my two-week excursion to Germany, Austria, and Italy (will post about Rome starting tomorrow or Sunday), and am so jet-lagged that my brain is like a leftover fried cheese stick an hour after a party has ended. You know what that’s like, right? Not terribly appetizing.

So much to do, so much to do. But first, I must take care of two orders of business.

1. I have been remiss in letting you know about a website started by our own Maureen Johnson http://maureenjohnson.blogspot.com. It’s a social networking site called YA FOR OBAMA. It features some thought-provoking and passionate blogs from YA authors about why they are voting for Barack Obama for president. I have owed Maureen a blog for ages and I’ll be writing it in about ten minutes or whenever I finish typing this. If you are interested, here is the link to the site: http://yaforobama.ning.com/

Of course, you are under no obligation to visit. But if you are interested, it’s a great site, and I have enjoyed reading blogs from YA authors, including John Green, Sara Zarr, and Meg Cabot, among many others.

2. Ms. Lauren Myracle, author of the EXTREMELY CREEPY new novel, BLISS, among many other fine novels, has issued the following challenge to me and several other YA authors: http://lauren-myracle.livejournal.com/37608.html
Basically, Lauren has challenged us to face a fear–something that takes us far out of our comfort zones. And we are to post proof of our fear-overcoming in some format. What, me worry? AAAAHHHHHHHHH!

Now, I’m pretty neurotic and have a lot of fears, so, you know, it’s great to have so much material to work with. Here is a list for those of you playing the at-home game:
1. Flying
2. Small spaces, particularly small elevators
3. Doll–any and all dolls
4. Yoko Ono albums
5. People not understanding my sense of humor
6. Driving
7. Being stuck somewhere without food so that I might have to reenact the Donner Party
8. Amusement park rides (which puts me in a category with the usually intrepid Maureen Johnson)
9. Putting my foot in my mouth (not literally. I’d do that quite happily just to entertain myself)
10. That part in “The Shining” with the creepy twin girls
11. Snakes
12. Scary sounds
13. Churches at night

Oh, let’s stop at 13, since it’s Halloween and all. There are more, people. But that’s a short list. Interestingly, I have faced some of those fears in just the past two weeks:
1. I flew two, trans-Atlantic flights solo.
2. I rode in elevators small enough to belong to Strawberry Shortcake and all by my lonesome.
3. I forgot to buy a snack for those flights and I did not end up eating my seat companion.
4. I faced audiences who probably did not understand my sense of humor and smiled politely.
5. I’m sure I put my foot in it a few times. Like, did you know that the “Hook ’em Horns” finger sign of my alma mater, U.T., actually means something very, very, VERY obscene in Italy? Yeah? Could you have given me a heads up on that one? Good to know. Now.

But I have more fears. In fact, I have a fear that pretty much puts those petty fears to bed and calls them Mary, because it’s jam-packed with the thick cotton stuffing of emotion. Are you ready? You sure? You don’t want to think about it for a minute or, I don’t know, a lifetime? I could come back later; take your time.

Really? Oh. Okay, then. My biggest fear is self-disclosure. Exposure. Being seen. Being known. Taking stage.

There. I’ve said it.

This may seem surprising. I have a big personality. I could be described, fairly accurately, as a free spirit. But we’re talking about the nitty-gritty inside stuff here. And at heart, I am an introvert. A loner who happens to like people very much. I like to fly below the radar. To turn the question to someone else. I often made friends with people who enjoy being in the spotlight because it made it easier for me. Public speaking makes my heart beat like a deathmetal drum riff. Sometimes writing this blog terrifies me as I wrestle with how honest to be. I think that’s why writing is both salvation and so very hard–I cannot lie or hide or run when I write. I must be 100% honest. Honest beyond all comfort. Honest to the point of pain.

My first thought when Lauren issued her challenge was to take the easy way out. I could ride a roller coaster. Yes, that would scare me, but after five minutes, it would be over. I could handle a snake. That would give me chills. But again, I’d survive. (Unless it was a cobra I was handling…) Same with listening to Yoko Ono. Okay, that would be excruciating, but I’d pick the shortest song I could and live to tell the day. And afterward, I could listen to Green Day for an hour to recover. (For the record, I respect Yoko Ono; I just don’t like her music.)

But that other thing. Exposure. Yeah. That. I don’t know. What if I were to let you see inside me? Tell you truths you do not know? Reveal some part of my hidden heart–a wound, a wish, a desire? Would I survive it? Hard to say. When I start to speak up, a voice inside me sneers, “Who are you? Who are you to do this thing? To speak up? Speak out? To stand in the center under the light? Don’t. Move aside. Don’t let that truth crawl out of your mouth. It might frighten someone. Might hurt them. Truth hurts, don’t you know? Tell us a joke. Make us laugh. There. That’s better.”

And so. Here we are. Facing fears. Should I tell you something true?

Okay.

I have always loved to sing. I sing in the shower. I sing while I’m mopping the floors. I sing at karaoke night but only when everyone else has already gone and they are mostly drunk and not paying attention. I sang with Shannon Hale on tour, because it’s hard not to sing with Shannon Hale, because she makes you do it, but she also makes everything feel okay. Singing gives me great joy but it also makes me exceedingly shy and self-conscious. Why? Because singing is like writing. You cannot hide your soul in a song. Not really. It’s there for everyone to hear. Your wants. Your pain. Your insecurities. Also, your mangled notes.

To truly sing a song in public, by myself, not as a joke but for real, would make me want to wear a Depends.

There. There’s one. But there is also this: I could tell you one thing about me that you don’t know. I could write a Truth Blog and there it would be–something hidden brought into the light. I want to erase those words I just typed. To take them back. I don’t want to put it out there. But there. I’ve done it.

So. Before I chicken out, I leave it to you. You may decide which fear I will face. It’s in your hands. And frankly, that scares me to death.

HALLOWEEN SCARE-A-THON CHALLENGE:
I think Libba should:
1. Sing a song and post it on YouTube
2. Write a truth blog
3. Go to American Girl and film herself playing with creepy dolls that will probably eat her brain if she turns her back for too long
4. Ride a roller coaster and post that on YouTube, especially the part where she hurls
5. Listen to an entire Yoko Ono album
6. Stop talking about herself in the third person

Happy and safe Halloween to everyone. 🙂

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