Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Writers on Show

One of the scariest things that happens when you first get published is ...

No, it's not the realization that your book will be out there on the bookshop shelves, all on its own, just waiting for someone to pick it up and buy it. Although that is scary enough.

It's having to promote your books and yourself. I don't know about you, but I'm happiest pottering around the house, hiding in the backroom huddled over the computer, writing glorious fantasy adventures in my trackie daks (for those who don't know Australian slang, trackie daks are track pants).

Put a keyboard in front of me and I'm eloquent, funny even. But put me on a panel and ask me to be spontaneously funny ... that must be one of the lower levels of hell.

When I sold my first fantasy trilogy nearly 10 years ago, I was confronted with the horrible discovery that my publishers were going to launch my book by flying me to Sydney to do radio interviews, panels workshops and visit bookstores.

In desperation I joined Toastmasters where they helped me overcome my initial fear of speaking in public. But nothing can prepare you for a live radio interview via the 'phone, where you can't see the interviewer's face to pick up clues. And nothing can prepare you for that first workshop where you have to guide creative novices, drawing ideas from them. Here's a tip for appearing on panels at writers festivals and conventions. If you jam up and can't think of an answer, turn to the writer next to you and say, 'What do you think?'

I've been doing this for 8 years now and I can go onto a panel cold and think on my feet but I have tripped over those feet on occasions. One time I was telling a joke to illustrate a point, when I forgot the punch line. I could see the punchline coming and knew I'd gone blank. It was horrible. Truly cringe worthy. Luckily, no one but me remembers. And that's what you have to keep in mind. You might recall every slip you've made in public but others won't.

As long as you are genuine you'll make a connection with your audience and that's what's important.

Cheers, Rowena

6 comments:

Dave Freer said...

Well, Rowena you come across as confident and eloquent.

I must admit I dread it too. I've always been a listener rather than a talker. People seem to find me the sort of person they want to talk to... which is useful for a writer, I suppose. But I live in a quiet country district and seldom see more than say 10 people at once... Cons are big shock to the sytem. I've coped by assuming a 'crowd persona'. That's someone else making a fool of himself up there... Dunno if it works, but it keeps me sane.

Mike said...

Dave? There's something about the notion of a second persona ensuring sanity -- let me check the definition of split personality disorder and get back to you on that one, okay?

Dave Freer said...

LOL. I have this theory that we all have several personas inside us. You are not quite the same person with your partner as you are with your boss (I hope). It's when these become distinct and clearly seperated you have a problem.

Pati Nagle said...

Some friends and I were talking at Worldcon and we realized that a big con is an event where a bunch of introverted writers spend several days pretending to be extroverts. Of course it's exhausting!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I agree, Pati.

I always come back from Cons feeling like I need a holiday!

Mike said...

Dave? I'll go along with that -- in fact, I'll even toss on the fire the notion that when you shift languages and cultures, you often shift personas, sometimes dramatically. And I think many of us recognize Mile's frantic little commentator as something that we know. Perhaps it's when one or more personas stake out their own territory and refuse to play with the rest? That runaway persona syndrome is a little different than assuming the role of speaker or whatever. And I've been told by my students that when I get up front for a lecture, they are surprised at how different I seem to be. So . . . of course, I'm not sure that I should use myself as a standard for sanity. But I do know myself best, I think?