On Sunday I had my first solo author talk. I spoke on the business of writing at Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room in Seward, NE. My previous speaking engagements had been limited to sitting on panels at a few science fiction conventions, where I had a least one other author to share the spotlight with.
And I won’t lie; I was totally nervous. I knew it was a smaller venue and would be mostly full of people who knew me, but in some ways speaking mostly to friends and family, can be even more unnerving.
But I did it. Somehow I managed to talk for a little over an hour, and then still field questions. I’m sure the wine helped, but in reality, it was the fact that I came into this talk prepared.
Since I’d never given a long speech before, I wasn’t completely sure how to approach it. I made an outline of the talk and then practiced in the car by myself. It helped, but I still wasn’t so sure I wouldn’t screw up, forget what I was supposed to say next, and then flee the room in humiliation.
Fortunately, my wife had an idea. She took to the kids to the park so that I’d have the house to myself and then said I should record myself practicing the talk. And that’s exactly what I did. Sort of. I spent that 60+ minutes practicing different versions of my first five minutes. I’d record, then watch and see how it looked.
By the time I got a little more comfortable and could talk to the camera for a good eight minutes, they were home. I had a clip that seemed to be pretty good–at least good enough to show another human–so we watched and critiqued it.
And boy am I happy I did. It really helped me get through the most difficult part of the talk, which is the first few minutes before you loosen up.
That was the only part I really needed to practice in front of the camera. I practiced the rest of the speech in the car and was able to use the outline I brought as well.
For my first time, I was generally happy (and relieved) to feel like everything went okay, and I would love to do more talks like this.
My speech was the fourth of a year-long monthly event with the Nebraska Writers Guild. Every month, a new writer comes in to read, talk, or act. It’s such a great opportunity and I’m grateful that we’ve got both a strong writer group in Nebraska and places like Red Path ready to collaborate and help us get our names out there.
If you’re a new writer, I can’t stress how important it is to seek out groups like the NWG or the RMFW and see what kind of opportunities they maybe bring you. And also, whether you are in an organization like that or not, I’d like to encourage you to do what you can to find local speaking or reading opportunities.
If you’re in a city, you’re likely surrounded by coffee shops, libraries, art galleries, and schools. Start making phone calls and see who would be willing to bring you in to read, talk, sign books, or whatever. Just like submitting short stories or querying agents, the worst thing that will happen is that they will say no.
So to close, I just wanted to thing Red Path for hosting me, the NWG (and Gina especially) for helping arrange it, and any of you who happened to stop by.
I hope I was able to get you excited about writing and chasing your writing dreams just like I’m chasing mine.