Sunday, April 20, 2014

Talking About Talking About Writing by Jenny Gardiner

Sheesh! When I started writing novels, it was because I just kept reading books and thinking "I could do that!" After all, I was already a writer; my overwrought Christmas newsletters no doubt kept recipients on the edge of their seats each December (make that February, as I was always late with them). And my grocery lists, well, let's just say I compose a mean grocery list.

In truth, I have long been a little too fascinated with the stories of peoples' lives -- be they the sordid tales of famous people, the unfathomable actions of "what-the-hell-were-they-thinking" criminals, or the simple stories of average peoples' lives (I am so addicted to reading obituaries), I guess I'd stockpiled enough information that I was ready to make up my own characters with their own issues. Throw in a slight obsession with what motivates people, and I guess I needed to become a novelist, or a psychologist.

However, I hadn't bargained for the whole other side of writing a book, which is promoting the thing. This aspect of publishing has eclipsed the mere writing of a book over the past few years, with the growth of the internet and the vast and boundless world of social networking. Sadly, in many ways, promotion efforts by necessity dwarf writing duties. I suspect most writers would far prefer to just get to work on another book, rather than jumping through the many, many hoops of fire in order to sell the previous one. By the time I've finished writing a book, I'm sort of finished with it: I lose perspective on the story and couldn't begin to tell you if it's good, bad or indifferent. Plus I then promptly forget the names of my characters and much of the storyline. I've loved them and left them behind.

But like it or not, promotion happens. And one of the aspects of promotion with which I have a love/hate relationship is public speaking. I hate it because invariably I become slightly terrified. I suppose this is natural -- think Jan Brady having to imagine her audience at a debate in their underwear so she didn't freeze in fear. I worry that I won't say the right things, entertain my audience, and provide them with their money's worth (not that anyone is actually paying for the performance!) all while sporting a fat piece of parsley on my teeth the entire time. I guess it's not fear of public speaking so much as fear of making a fool of yourself in public. And then having it end up on Youtube.

But the reality is, I end up loving speaking to groups. Whether they're book clubs, or at conferences, or civic organizations, book festivals, writing workshops. I am comfortable with my subject matter, which I suppose would mean the contents of my vivid imagination. I could go on for hours about the weird stuff I can fantasize about if given the chance. And if I can fantasize about it, I can write about it. And I've been around long enough to know about the vagaries of the publishing industry.

I think that's the thing: by the time a writer ends up in the position of having to speak publicly, usually said writer has been through the wringer, has suffered the slings and arrows of defeat in this business, and has experienced the great good fortune and joy of being published, which in itself is almost akin to winning the lottery. I enjoy sharing my experiences with the many people who might harbor a secret desire to write and publish a book some day. And I'm thrilled to find people who have enjoyed my writing enough to put on an outfit, hop in the car, and make it to that venue where I'm speaking. It doesn't get more awesome than that. Well, maybe even more awesome when I can elicit laughter. There is something magical about being able to entertain your audience enough that you've made them forget bad things even for a second, long enough to laugh. It's a great feeling.

Ultimately I view public speaking as a real privilege, something that came about as a result of many years of toil to get to where I am professionally, to hone my craft, to learn the business, and to do any and everything required of the world to get me to where I am as a published author. It wasn't easy, but it was so worth it, every step of the way, every mistake, every misfortune that might have befallen me even, because it seasoned me enough to be able to share my experiences and my world with others.

And if I've been able to help even one writer on the path, to pay it forward by easing their way, it's all the more sweet an accomplishment.

  Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Slim to None

Anywhere But Here

Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)

Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship (I'm a contributor)

And these shorts:
Idol Worship: A Lost Week with the Weirdos and Wannabes at American Idol Auditions

The Gall of It All: And None of the Three F's Rhymes with Duck

Naked Man On Main Street
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 find me on my website

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