By Laura Spinella
|Just like that! But a deer!|
Years ago, when I was first married, we lived in rural Georgia—and by rural I mean a place where our beloved first child, a golden retriever named Daizy, once dragged a deer’s head home. Actually, it was a beautiful slice of the South, set on a lake that made you feel okay about time drifting by. Conversely, employment was scarce (read couldn’t get hired at local newspaper) and I took a job substitute teaching. Now, you may ask, what does this have to do with authors in public forums? Well, not much. Not until I thought about how that first “speaking engagement” compared to one I might take on today.
In my youthful (read naive) twenties, I could envision myself dazzling an audience, captivating a crowd. It turned out that my imagination produced a better effort than the actual result. I was quickly mowed over by a room full of third-graders. Truthfully, my public speaking skills scored only slightly worse than my natural awkwardness with children. Still, I needed the job. Initially, things didn’t improve much. I choked every time I stood in front of a classroom. I didn’t come across as a teacher, and they knew it, outing me faster than a store-brand Oreo. Eventually, it occurred to me that if I couldn’t be a teacher, maybe I could be a character, one with persuasive credentials. Welcome to the classroom, Mrs. S., Santa’s all-knowing
|Apparently, I was the original elf on a classroom shelf!|
Fast forward a couple of decades into a world grateful—and rightly so—that I did not go into education. However, years removed from the experience I found that published author brought me right back around. Clearly, I missed the clause in my contract stating: Oh, BTW, you may get tapped, now and again, to share your knowledge (likely for almost free) on writing, revision, rejection, editorial skills, publishing, self-publishing, promotion while incorporating other areas of interest, including but not limited to agents, editors, and the secret handshake, which is being forwarded under separate cover.
In my tenure as a published author, comparatively short when considering multi-published authors, I have been asked to speak about all the aforementioned categories. My first invite was through a continuing education program our community offers. Could I do a one-night class on publication? Who me? I hemmed and hawed, and pretended to lose the email, which was followed by another email from the diligent coordinator. I imagined it wouldn’t go any better than that classroom of third-graders. They’d point and whisper; there’d be snickering, maybe a spitball hurled at my head. Eventually someone would raise a hand. My heart would flutter in anticipation, only to be dashed when asked, “Do you know if there’s a refund option for this class?” Honestly, I didn’t think my elf-extraordinaire shtick was going to be of much help. But wait. Hadn’t I become something better? Hadn’t I become something real? I’d worked hard for that book with my name on the cover. I learned a lot along the way. I had knowledge and maybe even a little insight. Certainly I didn’t qualify as a keynote speaker, but this wasn’t the ballroom of the Ritz. This was a playing field on which I had earned a starting spot.
I agreed to the class, which was successful enough that I was asked to repeat it twice, and asked again to plan another one for this coming fall. Overall, my foray into public forums has been positive. Although I cannot, in all honesty, let this blog conclude without mentioning limitations. Since that first class—now three years ago—I’ve adopted a personal speaking rule: no podiums. If the invitation is a podium kind of event, I’ll pass. That kind of white-hot light is not for me. But if your crowd is casual, and they can handle an offbeat sense of humor, if your agenda includes a desire to learn a little something from someone who can put published author on her resume, then drop me a line. I just might be your gal.
Laura Spinella is the award-winning author Beautiful Disaster, a RITA finalist and the newly released Perfect Timing. Visit her at lauraspinella.net