Saturday, August 14, 2010

Who Would Have Thought?


I returned from my promotional jaunt to the Pacific Northwest to find a dozen lovely red (and one purple) tomatoes in the garden, artichokes ready to pick, and peppers nearly large enough to stuff. It’s time to get the boiling water canner out of the basement and start sterilizing jars.

This morning I buzzed down to Loveland for a morning signing at Anthology Books, taking advantage of the chance to catch the coffee and breakfast crowd on this sunny Saturday. Anthology is a small local indie with a great vibe, a warren of rooms and plenty of comfortable seating to allow for hours of reading.

I walked in to find a grouping of chairs and a portable stereo mic set up next to a wingback chair.

Wingback chair = author. Me.

Microphone = speaking. Unanticipated.

We simply hadn’t talked about it, and I was a little surprised because of the loud whooshes from espressos, lattes, et al creating rather a din throughout the store. And lots of people chatting.

Seemed an odd choice for a reading, and frankly I’d just had a reading last week that involved bookstore employees searching for books and talking to customers right behind me as I spoke, as well as the increasingly ubiquitous coffee-drink noises. So on that occasion I raised my voice and made the best of it, grinning and waving down a particularly offended customer who had come to listen to me. Better to roll with it.

Now, there was a time when I would have blanched at the very idea of being unprepared for a speaking event. Actually, at even having a speaking event. I’ve heard that public speaking ranks only second to being buried alive as the worst fear people have. When I first became published and realized I was going to have to Go Speak In Public, the idea of being buried alive was actually a bit more appealing.

The first time I did a book reading that’s all it was: reading. The entire Fiction Certification class at the University of Washington read from their books. I was one among thirteen. No biggie, right? My hands were shaking so hard I could barely see the words on the page. My voice quavered an equal amount, and I was pretty sure my throat was going to simply close up on me. I figured it would be embarrassing to die in front of everyone like that, but still preferable to talking to them.

But with each book release I’ve barreled out there and done my dog and pony show. I speak. I tell stories. I make a few little jokes – not too many, because I’m a terrible flop at being funny if I actually try to be funny. I read. I talk a little more about home crafts and making things by hand and from scratch. I read a little more. I answer questions.

Each time it gets a little easier. A little more bearable. Until this last trip. Something truly bizarre happened.

I loved it.

When fifty people showed up at the library for my talk and workshop, I kept waiting to panic. They kept filing in and I found myself getting, well, excited as I anticipated getting started. My subsequent readings on the tour were … fun (!)

So when it turned out that I didn’t speak today at Anthology Books, I was actually disappointed. Too many people, too little space, but plenty of opportunity to talk with customers as they walked by. I met lots of lovely folks, not least of whom were the book store staff, and I yammered and chatted away. It wasn’t the same, though.

And now I kind of wonder whether my newfound fondness for public speaking will stick. Hmmm…


  1. Too funny, Cricket. And yes, it would have been embarrassing to drop dead in front of a group of people. I'm glad that never happened. This post is great encouragement for first time authors who think they just might not survive the promotion part of writing.

  2. This is encouraging. I haven't done book release speaking yet, but I HAVE given talks for work, and I find what makes it easiest is a lot of practice... so maybe you've just had sufficient practice at winging it, now... I hope to get there some day.