How Many Times Can I Not Give the Same Speech?

By Allison Brennan 

I’m in Colorado for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers “Colorado Gold” conference. This is new experience for me. I’ve spoken to thriller/mystery writers and romance writers, but never a multi-genre “fiction” writers group.

I presented my “No Plotters Allowed” workshop, which I always like to give. As I tell the audience at the beginning, they really only need to take one thing from the workshop: There is no one right way to write, but there is a right way for you. I created the workshop years ago (before my first book came out) because I was tired of well-meaning people telling me I had to do this or that (write an outline, create a GMC chart, use the snowflake method, know my theme, identify the black moment–what the hell is the black moment? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question. Sort of.) So I devised the workshop originally with my pal Patti Berg to give people permission to write the way they want that moves them forward. It’s the right way if you’re making progress; it’s the wrong way if you aren’t. Simple.

And then I go off on a hundred tangents and hope people have lots of questions. I love questions 🙂

I haven’t attended any other workshops because I have a book due in three weeks and need to write every day, so have been putting in 4 hours a day writing, netting 6500 words in two days. I tend to write more when I’m NOT at home–which is why I go to Starbucks when I’m stuck or when I’m close to deadline and need to increase my writing pace. Fewer distractions.

Now, it’s Saturday night (because I never get my blog done early) and I’m in my hotel room after listening to an AMAZING keynote speech by Bernard Cornwell, who writes historical fiction. Maybe because he has a British accent, or maybe because he’s just a great speaker and hilarious to boot, I’m a bit panicked. I’m speaking tomorrow at the luncheon. I can not compete with his performance or wit, and I have no accent to hide behind.

I’d planned on giving the speech I haven’t given to three different conferences. I wrote it for the New Jersey Romance Writers in 2009, and got derailed after three pages. I then attempted it at the Moonlight & Magnolia’s conference in 2010–but I had cut it down and (nearly) got through the whole thing before I went off on a story. So I attempted it again at the Dreaming in Dallas conference earlier this year … and don’t think I got through more than the opening.

This would have been my fourth attempt. 

But I’m thinking maybe the speech just isn’t worth telling. So now, instead of going down and drinking in the hospitality suite, I’m taking the speech apart and trying to find the good parts and write something around them. Maybe it’s just because I’ve read it so many times that I’m finding it boring. Or maybe because I just listened to a funny and poignant speech that was both inspiring even as he told everyone not to become a writer.

And then I wonder, why do I agree to do these things?

Truth is, I enjoy conferences and presenting workshops. The speeches, not so much, but I get through it. And I’ll do it this time. Even if I end up not giving the speech I write.

This weekend has been a busy weekend in the Brennan house. I’ve had this Colorado conference on the calendar for nearly a year. Then after school starts, I learn that my oldest has a volleyball tournament in San Diego (and yes, she arrived on Thursday in the midst of the power outage!); my #2 daughter has a cross country retreat in Lake Tahoe; my sons have an away football game; and my youngest daughter has her first soccer game. Fortunately, my mom was able to take care of the soccer game (yeah, grandma!) so my husband could take the boys to the football game. Soccer game: Victory! 7-1. Mighty Mites (6-8 year olds) football game: Victory! Come from behind to win 13-12. Jr. Pee Wees (8-10 yrs): They lost BUT my son, #49, caught his first pass in a game. A 20 yard throw, and he ran an additional five yards before being tackled. I’m sorry I missed the catch (but not sorry I missed him being tackled!)


And finally, we all know what day it is today. I didn’t want to write a blog summarizing what we all know happened ten years ago, or reliving where we were or what we were doing–but I do want to recognize the amazing men and women who sacrificed so much. Those who died. Those who cleaned up. Those who rebuilt. America is an amazing country, and we truly have amazing people. And even though I may complain about this or that on occasion, there’s no place I would rather live.

I apologize in advance for not being around much of today, what with the speech I’ll be giving and then pre-speech panic attack. But I hope you’ll share a good book you’ve read recently, or a movie that you were surprised you liked. I saw SUPER-8 earlier this summer. I expected it to be ok; I ended up really enjoying it.

14 thoughts on “How Many Times Can I Not Give the Same Speech?

  1. Reine

    Hi Allison,

    Not that I'm glad you have pre-speech panic attacks too, but . . . aaah . . . it's sort of good to know that a writer I think is terrific . . . has . . . um . . . is tht the same thing? No. I don't wish tht particular terror on anyone. I sometimes get these attacks before I just plain old talk to friends. Anyways . . . have a good one.

    I am looking forward to seeing Helen Mirren's new film The Debt. Love her.

    I took Step to see Deathly Hallows 2 for his birthday. He bought the popcorn and cokes for our anniversary. We don't do much in the way of presents anymore and in recent years have opted mostly for activity gifts. Films and trips top our lists. Oh yeah – Deathly Hallows 2 – was amazing I thought, but I could have done without the 3D. The glasses were cumbersome over my own, nd I discovered that I really don't enjoy the feeling of being there in the thick all that much. OK, that is not an answer to your question, but we're having another electrical storm. Yup that's what it is, okay.

  2. Barbie

    Pre-speech panic attacks are the good kind. I have panic attacks IN THE MIDDLE of my presentations. Now, those ones really blow.

    I watched GNOMEO AND JULIET the other day, and, yeah, I thought it was really adorable. My 16 year old brother and I went to rent movies, and that was my choice. I know, right? 🙂

  3. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Allison

    Deep breaths, and remember these people are your friends, not a jury trying to decide whether to convict you or not. Ah, perhaps I shouldn't have planted THAT image in your head …

    Last movie that surprised me? We bought one of these three-DVD sets because we wanted 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon' which was one of the three, and we'd seen and enjoyed 'Kung Fu Hustle' which was also on there. The third movie starred Jet Li, Bob Hoskins and Morgan Freeman, and was called 'Unleashed'. Didn't look promising, but turned out to be an incredibly poignant story – among all the fight scenes, of course ;-]

  4. B.E. Sanderson

    Every year I tell myself I'm going to make it to this conference and every year something gets in the way (usually finances). So, you were here in CO and I missed it again. I hope you had an awesome trip to CO and the conference was good. One of these days I'm going to hear that speech.

  5. Allison brennan

    @ Reine — I loved DEATHLY HALLOWS — best part, we watched Part 1 that I rented on iTunes the night before we saw the Part 2, which made it even better!

    @ Barbie — Confession–I wanted to see Gnomeo and Juliet, but haven't done it yet. Maybe I'll rent it for the kids when I get back!

    @ B.E. — Boo hoo! I would loved to have seen you. We should have arranged to meet off-site. I really love Colorado.

    @ Zoe — I'm stealing that line. I'll give you credit 🙂

  6. PK the Bookeemonster

    Allison, at conferences, they just want to see YOU. They are thinking of no one else. 🙂
    My flag is flying today but otherwise, as I read in a great opinion piece, life resumes — not giving terrorists the satisfaction of knowing they've changed our lives dramatically. I'm working on my newsletter and watching football.
    I read THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy last month and was completely blown away.

  7. Louise Ure

    Allison, I have the feeling that your written speech is no where near as good as the tangential/story-telling speeches you wind up giving. It's all good when it comes from the heart.

  8. JT Ellison

    Allison, luck and love on the speech – you know how much I adore them. I have to say though, talking extemporaneously is almost always better – you have a wealth of information to share, and any of it will be worthwhile.

    We just started WEEDS last night, and I can't wait to dive back in. Reading A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by Jennifer Egan, it's great, and just finished Laura Lippman's THE MOST DANGEROUS THING, which was fantastic!

  9. Alafair Burke

    Allison, I was glad to come here and find a blog post about something other than the date. Thanks for that. And good luck on your speech. We all know you'll be wonderful.

    As for movies, I also loved Super 8, as well as Bridesmaids.

  10. Fran

    I agree with Louise, I bet your storytelling is the best, which is why you keep going back there.

    I just read two books that amazed me. The first is the one I told Jonathan about on Wednesday, READY PLAYER ONE by Ernst Cline. Yes, it's got archetypical themes, and you pretty much know how it's going to end if you've seen Willy Wonka or Harry Potter, but that's okay. His voice is original and his storytelling is great.

    The other one is Deborah Harkness' A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, which Lillian insisted I read. It's first in a trilogy and it is astonishing and wonderful. Not only does she have a unique take on witches and vampires and whatnot, but her literary research is engrossing. From Darwin to the medievalists and all around the world, she just captured me. I can't wait for the next one. Such a talent!

    Allison, just breathe and trust your instincts. You'll be fine, I'm positive!

  11. Reine

    Allison, I am going to order the Deathly Hallows 2 DVD, so Step and I can watch both again, one after the other. Great idea. Thanks.

  12. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I am working too hard. I thought the last sentence of your blog was: "I saw 8MM this summer and really enjoyed it."

    My brain was having trouble processing that until I realized you said "Super 8".

    Because 8 MM… well, it's a different story.

    I'm sure the speech rocked.

  13. Pari Noskin

    My kids and I really enjoyed Super 8.

    I just finished a nonfiction book called Calling it Quits — about later-life divorce. I know it sounds morbid or depressing — and some parts were — but overall it was a fabulous examination of a subject that currently interests me far too much.

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