Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Speaking From Experience

I love public speaking--now, that is.  I used to hate it.  In fact, in years past, just the very thought of speaking in front of a group would put me into such a state of panic that I would almost become physically ill.  Now when I look back on those days, believe it or not, I can't for the life of me understand why I ever felt that way.  Public speaking engagements carry so many positives for an author that you can't afford not to do them, at least once in a while.  But what if you, too, find yourself shaking, sweating, and stammering when placed behind a podium?  Maybe these tips can help:
  • Know Your Topic:  Nothing causes a presentation to take a nose dive faster than a speaker who doesn't have knowledge of his topic.  I don't recommend speaking on any subject you don't have personal experience with or aren't willing to thoroughly learn or research.  Sticking to what you know has its benefits, and you'll be less flustered if the presentation goes off-course a little.  
  • Practice Makes Perfect:  Practice your presentation in front of friends and family, allowing them to provide honest feedback.  Does your voice trail off at the end of a sentence?  Do you make adequate eye contact?  Do you speak clearly?  Does your presentation cover interesting points or does it ramble on endlessly?  Use the feedback you get to improve the areas that need improving and strenghten your overall performance.
  • Timing is Everything:  Inexperienced or nervous speakers tend to either cut their presentations short or go over the time allotted.  Be sure you know exactly how much time you're expected to fill, and time your speech to stay within the limits.  I personally write my presentations to allow for at least 10-15 minutes of question and answer time at the end, or a writing activity--whichever is appropriate for the event.
  • Stay On Topic:  Many times a speaker gets a question or a comment from the audience and veers completely away from the original topic.  If this happens, go ahead and address it, but don't spend too much time away from the subject.  Gently guide everyone back to what they came to hear and learn.  Always keep in mind that you're on a schedule.
  • Relax and Have Fun:  Don't approach your presentation like a stuffy college professor.  Relax and enjoy your crowd.  Smile, make eye contact, and be animated if that's your personality.  Keep the audience interested by speaking in a conversational way, avoiding a monotone that's sure to bore everyone there.
Remember, speaking engagements are a great way for you to reach out to those who may be interested in reading your book and/or becoming writers themselves.  Don't be afraid to get out there and do it--the more you do, the more comfortable and experienced you'll become.  Happy writing--and speaking!

*Photo courtesy of Google Images

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sweet Success!

Recently, my family had the privilege of seeing rock legend Elton John in concert.  Whether or not you are a fan of Elton's music, you can't deny that the man is a success.  At the age of 66 he continues to record music, tour extensively, and sell more records than many artists could ever dream of.   So, as I sat in the concert arena with my ears ringing and my throat hoarse from singing the strains of "Crocodile Rock", I started to think:  what made him the iconic celebrity he is today?

Hard Work:  If you've ever seen Elton perform, you know he's no slacker.  His concerts are two-and-a-half hours of non-stop energy.  He puts his all into every note he sings and every note he plays.  His tours generally encompass most major cities in the United States as well as some overseas.

Dedication to His Fans:  He knows what they want, and he delivers.  Elton made it a point to involve his audience, often inviting them to sing along with him, enticing them to clap to the beat, and addressing them after each song with a bow.  He thanked them for being there and believing in him, noting that they were the reason he does what he does.

Attention to Detail:  The stage was set perfectly, sound checks were done, a glass of his favorite beverage provided to keep him from getting cotton mouth.  Lights flashed at appropriate times, speakers were adjusted for the perfect sound.  Merchandise vendors knew what items to recommend, ushers made sure everyone found their seats, ticket takers made sure no one "slipped" in who hadn't paid to be there.  Every T was crossed, every I was dotted.  No detail was overlooked.

Working with the Right People:  Over the years, Elton John has networked with some of the finest in the industry, and in doing so, has helped boost himself to super stardom--Bernie Taupin (songwriter), Nigel Olsen (legendary drummer/musician), and of course, Billy Joel.  He has connections and uses them wisely.

How does all this relate to writing, you say?  Think about it.  If we work hard at our craft, remember the role our readers play in what we do, pay attention to detail in our work(engaging stories, strong characters, thorough editing), and surround ourselves with others who can help boost our careers, we are sure to find success as authors.  Elton's an artist, and we are as well.  Keep on the "Yellow Brick Road" and maybe someday you'll see your name in lights, too!  Happy writing!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

You're The Inspiration

I was having a chat with my niece during Easter dinner about music, particularly songs and artists from the 80s.  This is a favorite subject of mine: having been a teenager during that era, I hold a special fondness for the tunes which used to vibrate the speakers in my car, shake the windows in my home (but only when Mom and Dad weren't home!), and are responsible for at least 60% of my current hearing loss.  Even today, when I hear certain songs and artists, I'm reminded of a simpler time--of people, places, and events that helped shape me into who I am today.  It's for this reason that my Forever Love Series is set in the late 1980s.  And, thanks to a 45 rpm version of "I Can't Hold Back" by Survivor, my beloved Mitch Tarrington became a musician.

Why do authors write about the things that they do?  Where do the ideas come from?  While the initial inspiration for my books was born from an actual dream, I tend to take a lot from the things around me.  Sometimes a song will spark my muse; other times, a TV show or something I observe while I'm out and about in the world.  I find that ideas and inspirations for writing are everywhere, if one will only take the time to find them.  The way to your readers' hearts may very well be found in words from the waitress at your favorite restaurant, a painting at the local museum, or the child playing hopscotch on the school playground.  Maybe doing some people watching at the local mall will inspire a new character, or provide you with some traits you can use to spice up a current one.  Will your hero sweep the girl off her feet and carry her to that mansion you pass on your way to work each day?  Or will she rescue him from a life like the homeless man you read about in the newspaper?  One never knows.

Ideas and inspirations are everywhere, and you need to be ready when one hits you.  Carry a small notebook in your pocket, handbag, or briefcase to jot down things that spark your interest.  Invest in a handheld recorder if that works better for you.  Then take what you've gathered, mix it with your own imagination, and build a world that your readers can get lost in, if only for a few hours a day.  What inspires you? Share with me in the comments.  Happy writing!

*Photo courtesy of Google Images