No, not that kind of terror.
The terror that comes from facing an unknown. The terror of
speaking in public. The terror that precedes my very first public appearance on
the teaching side of a panel at a writer’s conference. It happens tomorrow, and
I’m scared to death.
Saturday, August 4, 2006 marks the very first writer’s
conference where I’ll be facing an audience. It’s called Murder in Music City and is
sponsored by the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. The goal is
to help aspiring authors gain knowledge and skills to assist in the journey
toward publication. And somehow, someone thought that I’d be a good person to
have for this.
What were they thinking? What was I thinking to agree?????
Okay, true confessions time. I have a little public speaking
fear. In graduate school, we had to get up in front of a class and a video
camera and do a 30 second political spot we’d written. Writing the copy was a
no brainer. But as I watched my classmates parade, one by one, up to the
podium, launch into their campaign ads, my palms started to sweat. My head
started to hurt. By the time it was my turn, I was feeling a little panicky. I
got up in front of the group, the light of the camera went on, and I FROZE.
Heart in my throat, black spots in front of my eyes, the works. I took a couple
of shallow breaths, mumbled my way through and got the hell out of there. Hubby
was there (boyfriend at the time) and he was shocked. Here I was, this well put
together woman who could jaw with Senators and Congressmen all night, but a
little 30 second camera spot unglued me. He should have run then.
I’ve been worried about this for a while. What in the hell
am I going to do in front of an audience now? I’ll tell you. I’m going to
panic. I may not show it, but my heart will be racing, I’ll stumble over my
words – in short, it’s not going to be pretty.
Facing an audience is the one thing I didn’t sign up for
when I decided to become a full time writer. I love my computer, my desk,
email, the phone. I love critique groups, going to Sisters in Crime meetings.
Hell, I had a ball at ThrillerFest (with a little help from my little friend
for the first couple of days, if you know what I mean). Just don’t ask me to
speak to the group.
So I’ve been fretting for a solid year about this moment. I
know myself, once I get used to it, I’ll be fine. Practice makes perfect, all
that good stuff. It’s the initial events that are going to be rough. I’m never
going to have the style and panache of J.A. Konrath, who can crash a meeting of
Sisters in Crime Middle TN Chapter and talk for an hour, off the cuff, about
his long road getting published. I’m never going to have the charm and grace of
a Tasha Alexander, who captivated an audience I was in for an hour. We wanted more.
I’ll never have the laconic coolness of Lee Child, the off the cuff humor of
John Connolly, the gravitas of Jan Burke. I don’t even worry about that,
really. Why set yourself up for failure, you know?
So here’s the set up. I was supposed to be on a panel with
several other SEMWA mystery writers. A bit panic inducing, but my most
excellent friend, JB Thompson, was tapped to moderate. I knew I could manage
that. I talked myself through it and knew I would ultimately be okay.
The there was a schedule change. And don’t get me wrong, I’m
thrilled about this, just a wee bit nervous. The esteemed P.J. Parrish (the
Kelly Nichols half) is the headliner, doing a presentation on writing
thrillers. The powers that be decided that I’d fit better with her, an old pro
v. new kid on the block set-up. So it’s the two of us, with a killer PowerPoint
presentation, in front of the audience, for 90 minutes.
Can you say stomach cramps?
I’m going overboard here. I’ve never met Kelly but have
heard amazingly wonderful stories about both her and her sister, Kristy. She
has been so gracious, forthcoming and damn helpful getting this presentation
together. She’s a cool cucumber, has done this a million times, and will
certainly be able to cover any flubs I might make. Personally, I plan to sit
back, click the mouse to change slides and pray no one knows I’m there. Vanna White, anyone?
If you’ve met me, you might not believe this deep rooted
fear is possible. I’m a bit chatty, actually. I enjoy meeting new people. I’m
generally a pretty outgoing, laid back kind of girl. It’s the audience that
So I have a favor to ask, my fellow scribes and readers. Can
you share some embarrassing moments you’ve had or witnessed? Please tell me I’m
not the only one who’s ever had this mind numbing feeling, and I’ll go into
tomorrow with my head held high.
And a plastic bucket under the table, just in case.
Wine of the Week: Red Guitar Navarro Tempranillo Garnacha
P.S. For yet another chance to see me flub my lines, KillerNashville is just around the corner, September 15-16. If you’re in the Southeast and want a great conference to attend close to home, come check it out. Click here for more information.
BIG P.P.S. Just found out one of my most favorite authors will be the special guest ON THE BUBBLE tomorrow. You DON’T want to miss her. Hints? NEVER! You must come back in the morning for your treat.