I do not like this question.
I fumble and falter when asked what I'm writing. I try to scrape together the plot from all the frayed pieces that never seem to make the right leap from heart to head to lips. I leave the conversation red-faced and hot-eared and all armpit-sweaty. The only thing I really want to say is I'm sorry I'm a writer. I'm sorry I've got this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad book in me but if I buy you a cookie, will you still be my friend?
I don't know. This question. This what are you writing question. It makes me bridge jumpy. I think I would rather hold up an excuse me for one minute finger, apologize to a tree, print out the 300 page novel itself, and place it in confused hands before I ever answer this question. Then I could say: This. This is what I'm writing. Have a lovely afternoon.
Before a conference, where the answer to this inevitable question is far more significant than it is at an awkward dinner party, I sat on my couch, late into the night, practicing the answer. Out loud. I repeated it to the window, the desk, the bookshelf. Over and over. I had a one-sentence pitch. I had a two-sentence pitch. I had a few-sentence pitch.
This, I decided, is how people with extreme social anxiety, people who have not yet kissed the legendary Blarney Stone, must get through a writing life.