Thursday, April 17, 2014

Do's and Don'ts of Public Speaking

by Maria Geraci

When my first book came out in 2009 to say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. I was new to the world of publishing and things like cover conferences and copy edits and deadlines were a stormy sea I had learned to navigate partly with the help of my agent and other writer friends, and partly by myself (I don't think anyone can really teach you to dog paddle. There is nothing more motivating than sink or swim.).

What I wasn't expecting, however, were the requests I had for interviews and public speaking. The interviews were easy because other than a few phone interviews and one live meet-and-greet at the local Starbucks, most of those were conducted online. I had time to think of my answers and produce some sort of semi-intelligent, semi-witty response. At least, I hope that's how they came across.

When I was asked by a friend from my Bunco group to come speak to the local Rotary club, I was a little flummoxed.

"Why would they want to hear from me?" I asked.

"Oh, we invite speakers all the time. Don't worry! You'll be fabulous. Tell them how you got published. Everyone is always interested in that."

Okay, I thought to myself. My friend was right. One thing I had learned early on is that most people are always fascinated by how authors get published. I jotted down a few notes on a set of index cards, dressed up in business casual and met my friend in front of the local civic center where the Rotary Club met for lunch and their monthly meeting.

When I walked into the room, my pulse began to jump. It was packed. Full of people in business suits (men and women) busy eating their sit down lunch and networking with one another. I was escorted to the "head" table in front of the room and placed between two gentleman. The one to my left introduced himself as some sort of big shot with the Boy Scouts of America. The gentleman to my right was older (probably early to mid seventies), polite, but a bit reserved. My friend was seated at the end of the table. She gave me a thumbs up and a big smile and told me not to worry. The president of the club, whom my friend had introduced me to earlier, asked me how long my speech was.

How long was my speech? How was I supposed to know? I mean, was I supposed to have timed this?

I shrugged and said something along the lines of, "Oh, not too long."

She frowned. Then said something along the lines of,  "You have exactly twenty minutes and fourteen seconds. I'll be timing you." (Not really, but that's how it felt).

I then learned that I was going to be the 3rd speaker of the afternoon. Which meant I could relax a bit as the other 2 speakers did their thing. This would also be the perfect opportunity to slyly study my index cards.

The first speaker was introduced. She appeared to be a teenage girl and I immediately relaxed. I mean, how eloquent could she be? Then she made her way to the podium and that's when I noticed that she had some sort of physical disability. She was there to thank the Rotary Club for their sponsorship to a summer camp she had attended. Her speech was more than eloquent. It was elegant and full of warm gratitude to the group that had financially assisted her to fulfill a personal goal. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when she was done.

My damp palms were now clutching the Index Cards in a death grip.

Boy Scout Guy to my left must have noticed how nervous I looked because he leaned over and said, "You'll be fine."

I nodded numbly.

Then they introduced the next speaker who turned out to be older gentleman to my right. I heaved a sigh of relief. He shuffled his way to the podium and Boy Scout Guy whispered something like, "Yeah, you'll be great!" I mean, how good could this old guy be? Right?

Old Guy took a folded piece of paper out of his jacket pocket and read a small snippet of an article to the audience. The article was about a new form of social media called Twitter (remember, this was 2009). He then began to do an entire bit about his "generation" and social media and Twitter. I laughed so hard I was nearly in tears (as was the rest of the audience).

Then, it was my turn.

My friend introduced me and the audience politely clapped. I clutched my Index cards and began my not-so-prepared speech, fully aware that there was no way I could be as touching as the first speaker or as funny as the second. As I was fudging my way through the talk, I happened to notice someone out of the corner of my eye making hand gestures. It was the club president, tapping on her watch to indicate that my time was up. How long had I spoken? I glanced at my own watch and was horrified to see that I'd been speaking almost 45 minutes, and I wasn't even half-way through my life story! I quickly mumbled a conclusion and found my seat. More polite clapping ensued.

On my way out the civic center, I cornered my friend.

"Be honest, did I suck?"

"No! You were awesome."

Yes, she's a good friend :)

Luckily, I think over the years I've improved my skills just a bit. My own personal Do's and Dont's?

Do:

Set a time limit on your speech. No one wants to hear someone go on and on and on and....
Find out about your audience ahead of time.
Pick a narrow topic. Be specific.
Try to maintain good eye contact.
Allow time for questions.
Thank your audience afterward. Mingle, shake hands. And don't forget to thank the person who invited you to speak.

Don't:

Wear something uncomfortable/unflattering.
Eat right before you speak (unless you can go to the bathroom and brush your teeth!)
Use inappropriate language. Be professional!


Above all: Be yourself and have a good time!







Maria Geraci writes humorous romantic women's fiction. You can check out her website at www.mariageraci.com.





Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

by Michele Young-Stone, author of THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS and the forthcoming, ABOVE US ONLY SKY, Simon & Schuster, early 2015.

My dad used to drink beer and piss in the driveway.  My elementary school friends used to laugh and
make fun of me.  My dad never said my name without saying, "God damn it," first, as a preface, like it was part of my name.  He took a belt to me and my sister when he felt it was warranted.  When I got breasts, my dad was disappointed and stopped spending time with me.  I was supposed to be a boy.  I was supposed to be called Eric.  

I was too sensitive...

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. 

I often think that if it weren't for my dad, I wouldn't understand the world or myself or people as well as I do.  I'm grateful for my father.  I'm grateful for the drama I've survived.  

I won't ever express in words all the chaos I've endured.  I write fiction.  But I know the chaos.  I know the damaged people.  I'm one of them.  That's how I'm able to tell stories.  

I always tell people, "At a young age, I was written off as a future homeless/bag lady."  Nah!  Never listen to anyone who tells you what you're supposed to be--who puts you down.  I'm a writer.  I'm a novelist.  I'm a mother, a wife, and a woman always striving to do the best I can.  

Pursue what you love.  Find your cheese.  Eat your cake.  Live your life the best way you know how. Be happy!

Love.

This is my website.  www.micheleyoung-stone.com

  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Passover from the GBC!

"Let all who are hungry come and eat."


To all our readers, the GBC wishes you peace, fulfillment and nourishment of every kind. And to our friends who observe this holiday, a zissen Pesach!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Visiting with Therese Walsh: A Writer's Notes to Herself

Today, it's my great pleasure to welcome back to the GBC a wonderful friend, a talented novelist, and a generous contributor to the world of writing -- Therese Walsh. Her newest novel, THE MOON SISTERS (Random House/Crown, March 2014), is the haunting, lyrical, and truly memorable story of a journey taken by two very different siblings as they try to come to terms with the death of their mother.

The novel received a starred review from BOOKLIST. They wrote: "Both heartbreaking and hopeful, the Moon sisters’ journey is no quixotic quest, and readers will find themselves completely immersed in their transformative search. This magical, moving tale is not to be missed."

And Sarah Addison Allen said: "Therese Walsh has done it again. She is fast becoming known for delivering lush, emotional and deeply atmospheric reads that never disappoint. Her second book, The Moon Sisters, is a magical journey of grief, hope and the power of family bonds. It is a novel for the senses, a harmony of sounds, sights, scents and tastes, the likes of which you have never experienced before. You won’t want to miss this one."

So true!! I loved this book (as well as Therese's debut, THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY), and I hope those of you who haven't had a chance to read it yet will check it out! You can find it in hardcover and ebook at many retailers, including Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Indie Bound.

Very glad to have you here, Therese. Thank you for offering your thoughts below about staying the course amid this roller coaster of publishing :) . And congrats again on another fabulous novel!

~*~*~
THERESE WALSH:

Over a year ago, I wrote a post on Writer Unboxed about the notes stuck around my desk and mentioned that I didn’t have the heart to remove any of them, though the story I’d been working on – the story that became my second novel, The Moon Sisters – was finished. I still haven’t removed the notes. I want to tell you a little about them, and then I want to ask you a question.

My agent sold my debut in a generous two-book deal, and while I was elated over that, I was also nervous. I had to write a second book. I feared I didn’t have it in me; that maybe I was just a one-book author. I feared that whatever I did produce would be second-rate compared with my debut, which had taken over five years to write and rewrite and rewrite, because I’d be writing that second book on a half-gassed tank. Then sales started trickling in for my first book, and the numbers were disappointing. The need to write a killer-good second book felt critical, adding more pressure to my cooker. Then my imprint at Random House—Shaye Areheart—closed, and I was inherited by a new imprint, Crown. Would my second book be supported by this new imprint, when I wasn’t one of their acquired authors?

All of these doubts created a potent brew in me. Result: severe writer’s block.

Today: Don’t doubt. Just work.

This was one of my first notes. Push through a page, push through two, now how about a thousand words? Just for one day, do this much; just for one day, don’t doubt.

It felt a little like what an addict might say to get through a day of cravings, except my addiction was the block. And it worked. Not every day, but most days. Even if I wrote only a few paragraphs. I wrote.

Hold tight to your gratitude.

At some point, my nerves began to loosen and I was able to see the gift in the situation. That two-book deal was in some ways dreaded, but there was another way to look at it: If I hadn’t had the deal, I might not have kept writing. Disappointment over sales might’ve made me crawl into a hole—a non-writing hole—and hide. Remembering that this was a gift, this second chance, genuinely helped me.

Love the rock you’re pushing.

You probably know the story of Sisyphus, how he was condemned to push a rock up a hill only to watch it roll down again, and start the process over once more. Writing a book is a lot like Sisyphean labor. But I would argue that it can feel a lot less laborious when you love your rock. Once the characters in The Moon Sisters began to come alive for me, I fell for them. Pushing the rock that was my story up the hill was still hard, but I loved it and that made all the difference.

Carrying that metaphor a little further, after we do the hard work of writing a story, we have to let go—we have to let go of the rock. The rock does what it does, but it does what it does away from us. Maybe it meets a cozy patch of land. Maybe it hits against another rock. Our job isn’t to worry for that rock once it’s out of our reach. Our job is to walk back down the hill, find another rock, and start the process over again. The key is to pick a good rock.

Remember your community.

We can’t control this industry. We can’t control what happens to our books once they’ve left our hands. Even if we self-publish, we can’t control how a story will be absorbed by readers. But we can surround ourselves with people who get it. We can know that, no matter what happens to us—if our imprint closes or our sales are dismal or we get a painful dig on Goodreads—that we aren’t alone.

Look around. Others are pushing rocks up their hills, too. Take comfort in your writerly community. Control what you can. Let go what you can’t. Be grateful for what you do have.

And write on. Write on. Write on.


If you have notes around your desk, what do they say? What would they say, if you needed to give yourself a pep talk, to push through a difficult moment?

How I Got a Million Facebook Likes

by Samantha Wilde
Think about it: when, as an author, you're invited to speak to a group or a book club or at a bookstore, people, obviously, want you. Someone has some interest in what you have to say and someone thinks more than a handful of other people will spend an hour listening to it. Do these people like you? In essence, you don't have to ask. You are pre-liked by virtue of the invitation to talk.

Am I speaking or chewing on something?!
But Facebook. Now that is a different story.

Currently Facebook has this to say to me every time I open my author page:



In the real world, that would be like being invited to do a talk at the library and upon arrival having the director give you a list of every other author giving a library talk that evening all across the United States with the number of people attending those author's talks--a number, invariably, greater than your own.

But not just that, then the director of the library would let you know that you could not sit and talk about your novel or writing (one brief mention is okay), but that you would need to spend your time showing the audience funny pictures of unrelated cuteness. "You'll do best," she would say, "If you include some images of rainbows, animals doing unusual or adorable things, and as many candid photos of yourself as possible from childhood or engaging in an interesting activity. Also, pictures of yummy food."


WHAT! Do I write books or am I a photographer? Am I an author or a chef? Is writing now a competitive sport?

When you leave, every person who attended the talk will come up to you and let you know whether or not they "like" you. You will eventually learn not to take this personally. Not everyone can like you. Even people who actually like you may not have the time to like you, or they may not want your cute photos cluttering their Facebook-feed, in which case they will flatly refuse your invitation to like you (although, of course, they really do like you).

I am an extrovert. I have engaged in performance and public speaking for the entire duration of my life, acting on stage, preaching in front of large groups, leading yoga classes, and speaking publicly about writing. I love to talk and have been known to tend towards the confessional, particularly if telling a good private story of mine will garner a laugh.

But the level of exposure on Facebook makes me feel completely Amish. You know how the Amish feel about photography, right? I am a failed social media-ist because I don't want to reveal myself in that way. I might have become a good blogger if I'd been willing to write about personal struggles--but it felt wrong and anonymous in ways talking to a good friend never does. It's possible I could get more "likes" on my author site if I posted more super-cute pictures of my children, but I hate the idea of using their precious faces to sell (or try to sell, or with even the implication of selling) my novels. 

Yes, I am a social media introvert. Which means, of course, that in the virtual reality, I am a big zero.

Don't misunderstand me. I like people. I even like the people I've encountered on Facebook, but not every writer is meant to communicate in that kind of medium. Imagine if Jane Austen had a Facebook account! Oscar Wilde might have a field day but Emily Dickinson? If her fame depended on her ability to keep a good poet-Facebook site, absolutely no one would know her name now!

What is an author judged for? What is an author judged by? Does a good writer need to be quick with the camera and clever in the kitchen? Must she be pretty and take thrilling vacations? Does she need a MBA to figure out how to market herself to the masses? Must she have the skin of an armadillo to handle the truth that even some, even many, of her so-called Facebook "friends" will not bother to "like" her as an author?

And you're right, maybe if I had 100,000 Facebook "likes" I would feel differently about this whole venture, but there really is no strong evidence of the connection between Facebook "likes" and direct book sales. A writer wants three things, in this order: someone to read her books, someone to buy her books, and someone to love her books. I've written because I hoped my words on the page could mean something to someone else, make someone else laugh, offer that healing escape from the stress of the world, tell a story that mattered in a world moving so fast it can barely stop long enough to listen. 

Do I want you to like me? Of course. That's pretty much the human condition. But wouldn't any writer rather a reader simply liked her books? 

Besides, those "likes" don't reflect the truth. I'm sure more people would like me if they actually knew me. Spiritual teacher Byron Katie likes to say, "Everyone loves me. They just don't know it yet." Which gives me a great idea. Yes, a brilliant idea! An idea that will turn me from a writer into a social media savant. I will tweak my Facebook site with a wee-editorial change. Now, instead of reading "577 likes" it will read: 1,000,000 Likes--most of which haven't happened...YET.

Chocolate cake, books AND flowers!
Samantha Wilde is the author of I'LL TAKE WHAT SHE HAS and THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME, both humorous, honest tales of life as a mother and a friend in the modern world. She is also the author of STRANGE GIFTS, SOME WRITINGS ON LOVE, a collection of her essays and sermons written since her ordination as a minister twelve years ago. A yoga teacher by training and calling, her real job is taking care of her three children who daily remind her that liking and loving are complicated, rewarding and real-time events played out in conversations, hugs, mistakes and mayhem. You can find her on Facebook and even like her--if you dare--at authorSamanthaWilde.
 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

IT'S JUST COMMUNICATION




Judith Arnold



Giving a speech is no more frightening to me than writing a novel. You will note that I didn’t say public speaking wasn’t frightening. It is. But so is writing. In both cases, the fear is the same: does anyone really care about what I have to say?

I write to communicate. I believe I’ve got ideas worth sharing with others. I believe, despite my fears, that what I have to say will mean something to my audience. I believe my books can make readers laugh, cry, think, and feel. I believe my speeches can make a live audience laugh, cry, think and feel, too. More often than not, I make my audiences laugh, but I’ve been told, on occasion, that a speech I’ve given has left audience members shedding a few tears.

Of course, public speaking isn’t the same thing as writing. The experiences differ in three important ways:

  1. When I’m giving a speech, I dress a hell of a lot better than when I’m writing. I can’t recall ever putting on lipstick before I sat down to write. For public speeches, I’ll poke around my meager supply of cosmetics and attempt to pretty myself up.
     
  2. When I’m speaking in public, I don’t have the opportunity to go back and fix what I’ve said once I’ve uttered it. If I’m writing, I can fuss and revise and polish each sentence before I move on to the next sentence. With a speech, once a statement has left my mouth, it’s out there forever. Because of this, I usually type up my entire speech ahead of time. No index cards and single-word cues for me. I write out the whole thing and do all the fussing and revising and polishing in that draft. When I actually give the speech, I don’t read it. I often don’t even look much at what I’ve written. But I have the draft in front of me, with all its fussed-over, revised and polished sentences printed out. Just knowing I took care with those sentences at some point gives me the courage to keep going. 
     
  3. With a speech, I get instant feedback. If I say something funny and everyone laughs, I know I’ve succeeded. With a book, there’s no instant feedback. I’ll write a passage that strikes me as funny, and then cross my fingers and hope the passage will amuse my readers. But I won’t know for sure until my editor phones and says, “That line about the casseroles was hilarious,” or until I get some reviews, which might be a year after I actually wrote the line about the casseroles.

Despite these differences, public speaking and novel writing are pretty similar in my mind. Both require a leap of faith. Both require confidence that I have ideas worth expressing. Both make me feel vulnerable. Both are kind of scary. But if things go well, if the world agrees with me that my ideas are indeed worth expressing, both make me feel exhilarated.


  
However, I’m not going to wear lipstick when I write. Only when I speak.


Judith Arnold has a busy public speaking schedule this year. She recently presented workshops to writers’ groups in New Hampshire and Maine, and will be leading a discussion at the NECRWA conference in Massachusetts in May and speaking at the Romance Writers of America national conference in July. She’s been putting her lipstick collection to good use.

In the meantime, the Kindle edition of her new mystery release, Dead Ball, is priced at only $1.99 for a limited time, as part of a special promotion at Amazon. Grab a copy while it’s discounted! You can visit her web site  to learn about her independently published romances. For more information about her upcoming titles, discounts and deals, please sign up for her newsletter.

Talk About It by Jenny Gardiner

Sheesh! When I started writing novels, it was because I just kept reading books and thinking "I could do that!" After all, I was already a writer; my overwrought Christmas newsletters no doubt kept recipients on the edge of their seats each December (make that February, as I was always late with them). And my grocery lists, well, let's just say I compose a mean grocery list.


In truth, I have long been a little too fascinated with the stories of peoples' lives -- be they the sordid tales of famous people, the unfathomable actions of "what-the-hell-were-they-thinking" criminals, or the simple stories of average peoples' lives (I am so addicted to reading obituaries), I guess I'd stockpiled enough information that I was ready to make up my own characters with their own issues. Throw in a slight obsession with what motivates people, and I guess I needed to become a novelist, or a psychologist.


However, I hadn't bargained for the whole other side of writing a book, which is promoting the thing. This aspect of publishing has eclipsed the mere writing of a book over the past few years, with the growth of the internet and the vast and boundless world of social networking. Sadly, in many ways, promotion efforts by necessity dwarf writing duties. I suspect most writers would far prefer to just get to work on another book, rather than jumping through the many, many hoops of fire in order to sell the previous one. By the time I've finished writing a book, I'm sort of finished with it: I lose perspective on the story and couldn't begin to tell you if it's good, bad or indifferent. Plus I then promptly forget the names of my characters and much of the storyline. I've loved them and left them behind.


But like it or not, promotion happens. And one of the aspects of promotion with which I have a love/hate relationship is public speaking. I hate it because invariably I become slightly terrified. I suppose this is natural -- think Jan Brady having to imagine her audience at a debate in their underwear so she didn't freeze in fear. I worry that I won't say the right things, entertain my audience, and provide them with their money's worth (not that anyone is actually paying for the performance!) all while sporting a fat piece of parsley on my teeth the entire time. I guess it's not fear of public speaking so much as fear of making a fool of yourself in public. And then having it end up on Youtube.


But the reality is, I end up loving speaking to groups. Whether they're book clubs, or at conferences, or civic organizations, book festivals, writing workshops. I am comfortable with my subject matter, which I suppose would mean the contents of my vivid imagination. I could go on for hours about the weird stuff I can fantasize about if given the chance. And if I can fantasize about it, I can write about it. And I've been around long enough to know about the vagaries of the publishing industry.


I think that's the thing: by the time a writer ends up in the position of having to speak publicly, usually said writer has been through the wringer, has suffered the slings and arrows of defeat in this business, and has experienced the great good fortune and joy of being published, which in itself is almost akin to winning the lottery. I enjoy sharing my experiences with the many people who might harbor a secret desire to write and publish a book some day. And I'm thrilled to find people who have enjoyed my writing enough to put on an outfit, hop in the car, and make it to that venue where I'm speaking. It doesn't get more awesome than that. Well, maybe even more awesome when I can elicit laughter. There is something magical about being able to entertain your audience enough that you've made them forget bad things even for a second, long enough to laugh. It's a great feeling.

Ultimately I view public speaking as a real privilege, something that came about as a result of many years of toil to get to where I am professionally, to hone my craft, to learn the business, and to do any and everything required of the world to get me to where I am as a published author. It wasn't easy, but it was so worth it, every step of the way, every mistake, every misfortune that might have befallen me even, because it seasoned me enough to be able to share my experiences and my world with others.


And if I've been able to help even one writer on the path, to pay it forward by easing their way, it's all the more sweet an accomplishment.


  Sleeping with Ward Cleaver










Slim to None













Anywhere But Here
































Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me










Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)


















Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)



















I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship (I'm a contributor)



















And these shorts:
Idol Worship: A Lost Week with the Weirdos and Wannabes at American Idol Auditions


















The Gall of It All: And None of the Three F's Rhymes with Duck


















Naked Man On Main Street
find me on Facebook: fan page
 find me on twitter here
 find me on my website