I love the city I live in and their devotion to books. I love that I get to be part of that as an author and as a librarian. I have only had to say no to one local event and that was because I was in Chicago at the same time. When I was offered the chance to be part of the Lowell Creaticity event, I was excited to sign up. It was just the right opportunity at the right moment for me. Here is my recap of the event.
The event, which took place about two weeks ago, was planned by the city to showcase local artists. This included authors who were invited to speak at Gallery Z, a local gallery on the same street as the event. It took place over two days, so those of us who signed up were allotted 30 minute slots to do a reading. I was given the last slot on the first day of the event.
This was my first chance to do an author event since Modern Persuasion was released. I used my hard earned Toastmasters skills to decide how I approached my slot. I first had to decide how much of a reading I wanted to do. As a reader, listening to authors do a reading can be difficult. I love listening to Stephen King read something I might not read for a while, but most authors aren’t that engaging. Remember, for most writers, speaking is not their strength; writing is! I have sat through a number of local readings wishing the author had done something different. There are a lot of poets in town and hearing a steady stream of poems is not easy.
Yes, I did pick two sections of the book to read. I picked, specifically, chapter 2 (Emma recalls meeting and why she eventually broke up with Fredrick) and part of Fredrick’s chapter (specifically, seeing Emma again for the first time). I decided I wanted to focus my 30 minutes on my themes: mistakes, failure, and regret. Hint, all my writing seems to come back to those themes. I prepared a nice speech about my journey with all three issues as a college drop out AND failure who now has too many degrees and is relatively successful at life. It evolved into it’s own thing about how we learn to set goals and how we don’t really teach people how to let go and change goals.
I got to the event much earlier than I needed to be. This event also featured a number of my friends and I wanted to be there to support them too. I was very aware of three issues that would impact my audience. First, I was the last person to be speaking at the end of a long day. Most people would have come and gone from the entire event. Second, I don’t have a lot of people to support me locally. My family is far away, even those in the state. I promoted the event to friends and hoped someone would show up. Third, the author readings hadn’t been promoted clearly. The schedule hadn’t been updated as we all moved things around before the event. The sign inviting people into the gallery wasn’t as visible as it could have been. People were primarily coming in for drinks and to cool off on a very hot day.
Do not take these issues to mean the event wasn’t a success. Actually, it was very successful for me. I know I sold at least one copy of the book. I had two friends come to the event and three other people just show up (one of whom I know just a little bit). More importantly, I did a really good job with my first author reading. Trust me, Toastmasters has taught me well and I don’t think I would have been able to be so focused if I hadn’t spent so many years learning from them. I would have just rambled for 30 minutes. I was able to read one of my selections as well as give the speech I had prepared. I broke in my personal copy of my book. I suspect, over the next 6 months it will get battered and marked up often.
I did break one rule: I told too much about the future. Instead of letting people ask me questions with the last 5 minutes, I just filled it in with things I could have kept back. I talked about Mill Pages and NaNoWriMo, and Phi Alpha Pi, and New Devil… I knew it while I was talking. I knew I should shut up and let people ask me about these things, but did I listen to myself? I think I was so excited to have new people to share with that I let myself go.
This was the perfect learning experience too because three days later I had another reading event at the local Rotary Club. That’s a story for another day.