Friday, February 18, 2011

Keeping Quiet

Yesterday at work we were discussing the weekly coffee mornings at the library, and I was asked if I'd be interested in giving a talk about being a writer.

Inside my head this happened ...

On the surface I smiled pleasantly, though my first instinct was to scream NO! I once gave a 'best man's' speech at a friend's wedding years ago, and have never been so close to vomiting and fainting all at the same time, even though it went quite well in the end.

I hate that feeling. I'll shake, my voice will shake, I'll go red and the audience will know I'm nervous and feel nervous for me. However, IF I ever get published *cough, in this country, cough* I might be expected to give a talk here and there, so I figured it could be a good way for me to cut my teeth. Who would these people at the coffee morning be, I queried.

"Oh you know a few old dears, some mums, people wanting to support the library, that kind of thing. There's one old man who likes to come in for a cup of tea and a sleep."

I said I'd think about it. And then I said no. Because I'll only spend the next few weeks fretting about it and making myself feel ill otherwise.

Also, I feel like a fraud without an actual book I can hold up to prove I AM a writer. I can just picture the scepticism as Gladys demands to see my credentials, wanting tangible proof that I know what I'm wittering about.

Secondly, if it was people specifically turning up to hear someone talk about writing it might not be too bad, but it's not. Topics vary from week to week - from Medieval Chesham to finding a job online - but the audience remains the same. I'd only bore them rigid.

Thirdly ... well I suppose I'm a big ol' coward.

If I do ever get that publishing deal I expect it'll be a different story. I'll be begging them to let me give a talk about my 'journey'.

The problem will be shutting me up, but until then I'm keeping it zipped.


Tom Foolery said...

When you're published in the UK, I'll be in the audience (front row) of your first book talk m'dear, nodding and giving you lots of positive vibes. I might dress up as a gnome though! ;-) Tommox

Bernadette said...

Well, you could go in with a great big pile of magazines that you've had stories in for a start!

I have every sympathy, as I'm much the same (if not worse) about public speaking. Oh, the tales I could tell you of rampantly misbehaving bodily functions... but people might be having their tea, so I won't.

However, I will say that it would be quite useful to be able to have a go somewhere where there is nothing to lose (other than your lunch of course) because the day will come when it does matter more and practice makes perfect (or at least reminds you to have a lighter lunch).

So maybe you should have another little thinky?

Dumdad said...

I could have written this post word for word. I've been best man and given speeches but have always dreaded it and have got worse with time.

I love to hold court with my friends and family but put me on a platform nowadays - well, you won't be able to. And yet for years people have said "oh, it's all right for you, you always have a pithy comment at the drop of a hat."

Of course, if I ever got a novel published (two duds written, thinking about third) I think I'd be like you!

Confidence is a weird creature.

Jan Jones said...

It might be difficult giving a talk in your own workplace, but it would be lovely afterwards as the regulars sidle up and tell you they read one of your stories in WW for example.

What can be useful for a first talk is doing it as a question and answer with a pal. Like a TV sofa chat. Have them ask you prepared questions to begin with, then the audience can ask things as well. Easier and more natural answering questions than "speaking".

Anna May said...

I SO SO SO SO sympathise. I can write (and blog yards) and in small company never shut up but put me in front of an audience and I squeak like a soft toy.
Sorry, that probably doesn't help much, I suppose. I am going on a cure all course next month about how to give a public reading, maybe there's soemthing similar near you?
Anna May x

Colette McCormick said...

I'm coming out in a cold sweat for you. My advice would be don't do it unless
a) you have to
b) you want to.

Fran said...

Go for it! You've had loads published, and anyone who hasn't will think you're amazing, which is a great boost to the confidence. As someone else suggests, do it as an informal chat/interview style, and leave loads of time for questions.

Christine said...

I'm full of sympathy, but agree with Fran. Why not talk about the stories you've had published in magazines? People will be interested!

I used to dread going out to talk about the library service, to community groups, but once I got going then they had to rattle the biscuit tin to shut me up.

Thinking about doing a talk is far worse than actually getting on with it.

Suzanne Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne Jones said...

Sympathise completely, the thought of saying ANYTHING in public (and that would even be asking the official speaker a question)makes me feel ill.

However, I do agree with everyone who suggested it might be good practice. And I agree with those who suggested you speak about your many published short stories.

And I know if you did go for it, you'd be fab.


PS that last comment was me. Sorry. Must check comment before posting.


Karen said...

tommo - That's lovely, but if you dress as a gnome there's no WAY I'll be able to look at you without screaming!

bernadette - It's the leading up to it that's the worst bit, I just don't think I can handle it. However, I WILL think about it a bit longer as there's no pressure to do it straight away :o)

dumdad - It's really frustrating that some things just don't get easier with age. I did wonder if I could write things on cards instead and hold them up? Hope you go for the novel - 3rd time lucky :o)

jan jones - I think it would be easier if they knew they were coming to a talk about writing, but they'll just be 'turning up' on the day :o( I'd need a warm-up act to go on first I think!

anna may - A course sounds like a fine idea, I'll have to look into that. Mind you I'd even be nervous doing that!

colette - Well I don't HAVE to and I don't particularly want to, so I guess it's simple really :o))

fran - I just think I'd feel more confident if I had a book to show off - I know it sounds silly but the general public can still be quite scathing about 'womag' stories and don't consider it 'proper writing' :o(

christine - I sort of want to, to get it out of the way, but I really do think I'd be more confident if they were coming to hear a talk about writing specifically, instead of just rocking up for a cup of coffee and to see what's going on!

suzanne - I do feel ill just thinking about it, but I've decided I'm going to wait until I'm published book-wise (that'll be never then!) before I unleash myself on the public. At least then if I bore them rigid I can think, oh well at least I've had a novel published!

Lorna F said...

I think Bernadette has a good point - that you can try out your speaking skills on your home turf before moving on. However, I have lots of experience of speechifying in public and I know it's harder when there are familiar faces in the audience! The secret is to come across as casual and spontaneous while having prepared yourself extremely well - if you have a structure laid out for what you want to say you'll avoid floundering/long silences/riffling through notes. A set of index cards with headings, for instance, is a good device. You'll have to confront it some day, m'dear, because you WILL get published and the publishers WILL ask you to go out there and speak to the masses. Ask for a radio interview first - you don't see their faces and you can pretend you're speaking to nobody at all! Worked for me! :)

Debs Carr said...

You're so good at writing short stories, maybe you could give a talk about them. I'm sure people could learn so much from you and it would probably be a good starting place, as well as somewhere familiar, for when you're called on to talk about your books in the future.

Maybe it won't be as bad as you think.

Anna Scott Graham said...

A cup of tea and a sleep... I can't imagine you would leave him drowsy for long. :)))

I think you should have said yes on your short story credentials alone. Then rabbit on about how somewhat not easy your journey has been, if nothing else to dispel the notion writing is a piece of cake. Not to dissuade would-be authors, but to let them know it's not all bon bons and toffees.

Tell, not all the time... :))) It is VERY DAUNTING to assume more than what feels natural, and I understand your decision. Still, you possess such wit, it might have been very good for a few old dears to have left the library that day hard-pressed not to giggle. You always leave me rolling on the floor!

Amanda said...

I had to do a speech for my local history book, and my old head teacher was in the audience, I was shaking like a jelly.

And you could talk about writing, Mrs! You are already a published writer! And, like TF, I'll be in the front row when you talk about your first book!

LilyS said...

I have to agree with you on that one - I HATE talking in public but i can imagine if I ever get my own book to wave about I'll be telling anyone who'll listen. Get ready as I'm sure you'll be giving that talk one day soon

Talli Roland said...

Speaking in public is terrifying, I agree. But I'm sure you'd be fantastic! When you do give your talk as a publisher author - or otherwise - let me know! I'll be there!

suzy doodling said...

Hi Karen,
Public speaking is a nightmare. Even though you would be great, it's the thought of it that's worse. Ages ago, I was living in North Wales, and local 'ladies groups' were nabbing me to talk on 'flower arranging.' I did it once, it went so bad, the second time I had too many brandys beforehand, I don't drink normally. They didn't ask again..

David said...

I have always had a complete dread of speaking in public. I get all flustered and my face (neck and chest!) go red whenever I have to do it. It's really annoying because I know my nerves stop me making the best of certain situations.

A couple of years back I discovered 'Rescue Remedy' though. You can get it over the counter in Boots and you just put a few drops on your tongue an hour or so before you have to speak. I have to say that has helped me a lot. It's non-alcoholic although I do think it smells a little of plum wine...hmm curious.

I say go buy yourself a little bottle of that stuff and give the talk. Get some practice in ready for WHEN the book deal comes!


Jen Daiker said...

Scary!! I would want to take a leap of faith but I'd also be completely and utterly terrified. That being said I would probably still say yes and panic later!!

Shirley Wells said...

Because people always book these things months in advance, I always say "Yes, I'd love to do that." Then, when it's a week away, I start to panic. I convince myself I'll faint or be sick over everyone.

Once I get going though, I quite enjoy it. People are interested and a good chatty Q&A session always helps.

Wedding speeches are much worse (says she who has never given one :-)) because people are expecting something wonderfully clever and witty. People in libraries just want to hear about your experiences as a writer.

Teresa Ashby said...

That would happen inside my head too!

Here's another award for your collection - the Stylish Blogger Award for your lovely blog. Details at I hope you will share seven things about yourself on your blog and pass the baton to 15 more bloggers, but no worries if you’d rather not.

Karen said...

lorna - That's sound and lovely advice, and I'm going to file it away for the day I have a book to PROVE I know what I'm talking about. Radio does sound less scary, but I bet my voice would still wobble :o)

debs - I think it's still that slight attitude towards writing short stories for womags that puts me off. Again, if they were coming specifically to hear a talk about writing, it wouldn't be so bad!

anna - I could always offer him a sleeping bag for extra comfort!

It boils down to people just being there to hear a 'talk' rather than 'a talk about writing'. I do like the idea of letting them know how daunting the journey is though - put 'em off even trying :o)

amanda - Ooh you brave thing, at least you did it! Probably harder in front of familiar faces too :o))

lilys - I suppose I could always pay a stand-in to do it for me - maybe hire a comedian to put a fresh spin on things!

david - That's really good advice actually - I'm going to buy some and stash it away for when I'm ready :o) Or I could just hit the whiskey bottle ...

talli - I'm looking forward to that day - but it could be a long time coming!

suzy - That really made me laugh - I can just imagine the look on their faces. At least it would give them something to talk about afterwards!

jen - That's exactly what I would normally do - it's a measure of just how terrified I was that I actually said no!

shirley - They'd probably expect me to be wonderful and witty too - in fact that was hinted at when I was asked! Far too much pressure (for me anyway!)

teresa - At least it stayed in my head! Thanks so much for the lovely award :o)

February New Year's Resolution (better late than never)

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