Monday, January 17, 2011

Public Speaking for Introverts

I've been painfully shy or socially challenged most of my life, preferring to work "behind the scenes" with as little public contact as possible. The necessity of earning a living didn't allow me to be as reclusive as I would have preferred, but I did gravitate towards work that allowed me to spend most of my time hiding in a corner, working on my own.

About fifteen years ago, I started feeling prodded to do more writing and to share what I wrote. Call it fate or whatever you like--I just knew I had to do it. I began sharing poetry and songs in church, then moved on to occasionally filling the pulpit as a lay preacher. At least I could hide behind a podium so they couldn't see my knees knocking. I went on to joining writiers' groups, both receiving and offering critiques of my work. I finally went back to school to "lock in" my assorted credits by earning an AA degree, which required I take the dreaded speech class.

Now that I'm getting more serious about promoting my writing, I know I have to get out to meet the public. I've visited classrooms, sold books at bazaars, and started handing out bookmarks and other materials to anyone who will take them.

I've gradually come to understand that the best way to deal with fear is to follow the advice I put in the mouth of my character Samantha (Sammy), in The Door in the Sky. Get help if you can, practice, and finally just do it, even if you have to do it scared. I'm still doing it scared, but I'm told it doesn't show, so at least I'm learning to fake a calm I don't feel. And it does get a little easier with practice. A friend once told me that the first 100,000 times are the hardest.

This past month I've been a visiting author at the Tenino library (my second library visit) and once more served on several discussion panels at the Rustycon science fiction convention. They even gave me a time slot for reading and signing my books, and I actually had an audience. I will admit I was mildly terrified before each event, but I did it anyway, and hope to continue "practicing" on a regular basis.

I'm making myself available as a speaker for libraries, schools, scouts, or any other group that would like to listen to a story and/or discuss books, writing, and publication. Although most of my writing is focused on children, I can gear my presentation to adults as well.

No comments: