I’ve been so far out of my comfort zone for so long, I’m not sure I know my way back.
In the last 6 months, I’ve been drawn away from the pleasure of writing, to be called upon for public speaking events. Moving away from the private relationship between writer and page into a pubic life of presenting the published book to unknown audiences. It’s uncomfortable. It sounds ungrateful, and sulky, but for those of you, who long for the label of published, let me give you an insight into what is then expected of you.
The book launch itself was a huge party. Surrounded by friends and family I was supported throughout the whole event and I loved every minute. A lot of hard work studying the craft had paid off, and seeing my name of the front cover of a picture book was a dream come true.
Beyond that, I was asked to travel to the other side of the country to read in a major bookshop in Essex, during the town’s first birthday celebrations. Packed with families with expectant faces, I read my book whilst learning to juggle the page turns and display the fabulous illustrations. It is a children’s picture book after all. From the gesticulating and arm waving of the publisher, at the back of the room, I was encouraged to project my voice more. After 5 hours storytelling, my voice had all but disappeared.
This was the beginning of experiencing the adrenaline roller coaster; the sleepless nights and anxiety before an appearance, the peak and blind spots during the performance and the crash that surely follows once safely home.
The intensity of focus whilst presenting creates a muffled bubble around me. I can’t process information or hear clearly when blood is pounding at a rate of knots in my ears. This leaves me unaware of how the reading actually went. Of course there is the immediate feedback given by those who invited you to attend, but is the praise genuine? I can’t tell.
Quickly after, library invitations were received. Smaller groups of families gathered, waiting to hear a story read to the children. It should have been more relaxed, but all eyes are focused on you, listening to every word – that’s the point obviously – the adrenaline returned.
A book festival held in Cumbria, on a freezing winter’s day saw a 10 hour day travelling, reading, engaging children in creating their own stories, hand shakes with a councillor and journalists. Thankfully, there was an unexpected perk on this trip. A child came over to me and asked if it was okay to give me a hug. “Of course,” I replied, “they are my favourite things”… a line of children formed, each and every one hugging me on their way out of the school library. I’ll never forget that memory. I didn’t need any feedback from adults that day. I floated back to Cheshire.
Carried along on the high, I felt immortal! I decided to take a further leap into the unknown and did something I’d wanted to do for years. I booked a Vision Board Workshop. I booked, planned and presented a 2 hour workshop to teach how to create and use a vision board to focus on your goals and move towards achieving them. 2 hours later, I was losing my voice yet again.
Why would I willingly book the workshop you may ask, if I’m uncomfortable in a public arena? After months of being pushed into the spotlight to promote my book, I wanted to use the experience I had gained for to achieve a personal goal. I believe so firmly in the power of vision boards, it was a message I wanted to share, and as a result I had great fun with the ladies who attended. So much so that the venue manager invited me to attend another public event there; Harry Potter Day.
One tweet about the day said “If you mention the word Harry Potter, you’d better book Wembley Arena”. The crowds who poured into the Art Gallery that day were queued around the building for hours in icy winds and snow. The buzz attracted the BBC film crew. Every child dressed in full Hogwarts attire. After teaching spell writing to 640 children. I ached from head to foot. An occupational therapist friend of mine explained, bending down to speak to a child at their level was the equivalent of “squatting”. I had performed a thousand squats that day and my thighs screamed their resentment to me.
In the last week, I’ve battled the Beast from the East on World Book Day, to get books and equipment to a local school, in time to hold two school assemblies, followed by over seventy book signings engaging each child individually in the process. This time the pain was felt in my swollen hand, signing so many books. I shan’t complain!
As I write, an email has popped up asking how I can be booked for another school event. I shall reply enthusiastically. No matter how uncomfortable, no matter how physically and mentally challenged, no matter how the adrenaline messes with my mind, the children are the stars. One smile from a child is enough reward. The sea of hands thrust into the air eager to answer questions and join in the story making, is enough.
I have indulged here in a whine, wallowing in the hardships of public speaking, but I’ve vented, I feel better. Thank-you for listening, and if you do chase the dream of the label “published,” well, you’ve been informed of all it involves; aching feet, stiff back, hoarse voice and all. Now close this blog, ignore all I’ve said and go after that dream. I wish you every success x