My First Library Talk

The day after the library talk, I saw this rainbow out my hotel window.
The day after the library talk, I saw this rainbow outside my hotel window.

Whitney, come on down! In a random draw, you won my Spooktacular blog hop giveaway from last week! Thanks for participating everyone!

Last Thursday I gave my first library talk. In fact, it was my first talk EVER. I mean ever. Seriously, how I landed as an experienced adult (which is to say not a young adult) without having to give a presentation, I don’t know. Just lucked out, I guess.

Actually, no. It wasn’t luck. It was by design. I’d avoided public speaking my whole life. But then, somewhere along the way, I decided that I wanted readers for my novels, which meant becoming a more public person. It meant, in other words, public speaking. I could dream of being a Salinger, but the reality is that these days, I don’t think Salinger could get away with being Salinger. Unfortunately, the public life is part of the gig.

For years, I knew that someday I’d suck it up, pull on my big-girl undies, and public speak. That was a big “someday.” I knew I must super-fantastically-no-doubt-about-it love fiction if I was willing to someday face my glossophobia (fear of public speaking).

This past March “someday” became “now,” and the terror began. I’ll always remember 2014 as the year KILMOON was published and the year that terrified me. From readings to panels to my launch party … and last Thursday, to a library talk. I had to talk for a minimum of 30 minutes ABOUT MYSELF. I couldn’t hide behind answering the questions asked or reading from KILMOON.

I had to prepare, which meant brainstorming what I could say about myself that might interest readers. The obvious topics were my journey to publication and the inspirations for KILMOON. I wrote and rewrote index cards. Every time I drove, I spoke my talk out loud to myself. By the time I arrived at Driftwood Public Library, Lincoln City, Oregon, I didn’t need my notes anymore.

Actually, that’s a lie. I went blank for a second as I began my talk, started rambling, forgot where I was. So I’m glad I had my notes. Whew! Once I got going I was fine.

And you know what? It really was fine. I’m proud myself. I had fun. I sold some books, met great people, and got to stay over on the beautiful Oregon coast.

As a 20-something I cared too much about everything, including what people thought about me as a person, about me as an attractive (or not, since it’s subjective) woman, about everything including being as perfect as possible. These days I don’t give a damn the way I used to. It’s not that I showed up at the library all cocky. I was still me, after all–prone to worry and performance anxiety. The difference is that the jitters didn’t paralyze me like they would have in the past. Why? Because, ultimately, I knew that in the end it didn’t matter what people thought of me or how I goofed up.

In other words, I’m much more comfortable being myself than I used to be. What a wondrous thing to learn about myself! I may never be truly comfortable standing before a crowd, but I feel liberated that I can manage the terror. (Which isn’t terror anymore–more like run-of-the-mill nerves. What a blessing that is too!)

So, are you scared of public speaking? What do you do to combat your nerves?

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2 thoughts on “My First Library Talk

  1. Congratulations! Once you have one good experience on stage, it’s much easier to put the not-so-good ones in perspective (and there will be not-so-good ones from time to time).

    I’ve never been scared of public speaking or being on stage. Nerves, yes, but most people get that (John Lennon always threw up before performing). As you point out, that’s very different from terror.

    1. And thank goodness I’ve graduated from terror to just nerves! It’s great to see you here, Anthony. I still miss the camaraderie of the Deb Ball. I’ll be seeing Lori at the Bouchercon conference next week, which will be a blast. 🙂

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