Yesterday was another first. I gave a talk at my local library—my first talk as a published author. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the ‘audience’ (it seems a rather grand title for a small event) was the relatively newly-formed creative writing group, and I also knew that my library had informed a couple more local libraries of the talk in case their creative writing groups or book groups might like to come along. I originally intended to publicise the talk on Facebook, through my membership of a couple of local Facebook groups but, in the end, decided against it as it was my first time.
When I first agreed to do the talk I was a touch blasé. It’ll be fine, thought I. It was only the day before that the knot of nerves in my stomach threatened to overwhelm me and, by the time I arrived at the library (on high heels that already pinched as I hobbled up the stairs), I was deeply regretting my initial bravado. I felt unprepared and the old adage ‘Fail to prepare and prepare to fail’ kept buzzing around my head.
As it happened, it was great. It was informal—we all sat around a large table (thank God. Remember those heels!)—and it felt more like a chat than a talk, albeit with me doing most of the chatting. There were 7 people there, including my friend, Morton Gray, who came with me as chief cheerleader. I talked about how I came to be published: from my ambition as an 8 year old to be an author, to the way ‘real life’ gets in the way, to the moment I got ‘The Call’.
I had written a few prompts, mainly to keep my timeline straight (sounds like writing a novel, doesn’t it?). Also, knowing that one of the questions I am asked most frequently is ‘How long does it take you to write a book’ (to which I normally mumble and fudge my way around the answer), I set out to find out how long it does actually take me. Answer? I don’t know. The three books I have completed so far have been started and stopped and interrupted by Nanowrimo (http://nanowrimo.org/ ) and editing demands of the previous books and real life too many times to count. I even created an Excel sheet to try and reach an answer (now that’s a grand way to procrastinate!) but I am still no wiser. As it happens, nobody did ask that question which is just as well.
We had a lovely Q&A session at the end, finding out what everyone was writing and whether publication was the ultimate aim and, afterwards, one of the ladies attending asked me if I would be interested in giving a talk to a local Townswomen’s Guild. Of course, I said ‘yes’, particularly on being told they have a budget for speakers ;-).
Afterwards, I treated Morton to a cappuccino and we reminisced about how far we have come since we first met 3 years ago at our local RNA chapter lunch. The questions asked after my talk were the same questions we were asking back then. Now, we are supplying the answers.
Have you had any experience of speaking in public and do you have any top tips for people, like me, who are just getting started?