As I write this blog post on Thursday afternoon, half of my mind is on the reading I will be doing tonight. The truth is, I don’t want to do it. I’m here to tell you that in the annals of authordom, I’m more J.D. Salinger than J.K. Rowling. If I could get away with being a recluse, I gladly would.
To repeat, I don’t want to do the reading tonight. I just don’t. That’s the introvert in me who balks when it comes to public speaking. And, in fact, when it comes to public speaking, I’ve successfully kept my head buried in the sand until now. Apparently, I love writing so much that I’m willing to face public speaking as part of my writer’s life. Astounding really.
The last few months I’ve been facing my fear, and I’m here to tell you that even though I’d prefer not to do a public event tonight, I’m not shivery with nerves either. Maybe I’m getting used to it? Or, have I been so terror-stricken lately that I’ve gone numb and finally, at long last, have ceased to care (in the good way)?
Let me tell you a few of the ways I’ve been terror-stricken lately:
1. Noir at the Bar, Portland: This is a big reading event everywhere it occurs in these United States. This was my first official reading of KILMOON, and it wasn’t the wading pool of reading events either. There I was, the only goil (that’s noir-ish speak for “girl”) with five men who collectively have landed on NYT bestsellers lists, won awards, and been featured as answers to Jeopardy questions! I barely remember the evening. I was so nervous I felt doomed–like I was about to die.
2. Brown Bag Lunch, Wordcrafters writers conference: This was my first teaching event, in which, yes, I was supposed to know something and impart this so-called knowledge to pre-published novelists. Fellow debut author Christina Lay and I talked about what to expect of the publishing process, complete with tips and tricks. This was supposed to be a cozy little brown bag lunch event. Sit around, eat, chat, take questions. But noooo, we had so many people, we had to stand up and project our voices. We had to be speakers. Right before our talk started, I turned to Christina and said, “I think I’m going to have a panic attack.” I kid you not.
3. Left Coast Crime (LCC) conference, Debut Authors Breakfast and also a panel. I had a blast at LCC, don’t get me wrong–it was my launch week after all–but the thought of having to present KILMOON at a lectern, with a microphone, to 200 readers in hopes they would buy the novel filled me with dread. I only spoke for a minute–that’s all the time we each had–but somehow that made it worse. Later I participated in my first panel. This wasn’t as bad, but at one point I lost my train of thought so completely that the moderator had to save me.
4. My launch party. You’d think I’d have relished this celebration, but I was just as wrung out and strung out as I mentioned above. I’ve always been the elopement type, so throwing myself a party challenged me in so many ways. I think there’s a special fear called fiesta-phobia, the fear of throwing parties. I’m just not a hostess–it stresses me out. Would anyone come? Would they buy books? Did I have to speak (yes), must less read (yes, but only for three minutes)? The party was a great success, but still, I was a basket case until I completed the public speaking part and guzzled down a couple of Kilmoon Sours.
Looking back, I’m amazed by how far I’ve come. I’ll always prefer to be a recluse, but now I know I can face my discomfort and survive the physical symptoms that come along with my nerves. I might even have gotten used to it–maybe.
I’m the poster child for, If I can do it, so can you. I don’t have any tips or tricks for you, except to give you my promise that you’ll survive your public speaking forays and after showing up with your terror a few times, it will get easier. You may even enjoy it–maybe. Or maybe not. But you’ll survive to write another day. That’s all that really matters.
So, how are you with public speaking? Have any tips for me?