No doubt you’ve noticed me fretting about presenting at the New England Society for Children’s Writers & Illustrators Conference. Well, I’m happy to say “mission accomplished”! I’m home and recuperating from a wonderful weekend of “schmoozing and musing.”
This was my first presentation and I had 80 people signed up for it, so I knew I needed to swallow all of my nerves and deliver the goods. My talk was “Writing Historical Fiction for Young Adults” and I had a lot to cover and only one hour to talk. One hour can go by quickly when you have a lot to say and you want time for Q&A. Still, I’m not a natural public speaker, so here are some tricks that I employed to help me out:
* I wore my red boots, as they tend to boost my confidence.
* I looked for a few friendly, engaged faces in the crowd (not necessarily faces of people I knew) and basically gave my presentation to them. There was one lovely woman whom I would have thanked if only I could find her later in the conference – she was so alert and engaged that I basically gave my entire presentation to her. It was so comforting.
* I did my best to pretend that I wasn’t nervous. Maybe if I could fool the crowd then I could fool myself, too.
* I tried not to let things distract me. I had a few close moments. They had just broken down the tables for our lunch, and I guess the hotel staff were in the room right behind me playing with silverware, because I was distracted in the beginning by the sound of colliding forks. Then I had this surreal moment of “Lordy! Nancy Werlin is in the audience for my presentation!” Nancy is an amazing writer and speaker and a wonderful, sweet person. It was so great to see her in the audience, though it did give me a split second of panic.
I also learned that it’s good to just sort of roll with things and find the humor. The room I had was very nice and set up perfectly with audience-style chairs. But there was no podium and no microphone. Luckily my audience was so nice that they helped me set my laptop up on a chair (“oops, the cord won’t reach, lets move it to this chair”). I suppose it didn’t hurt that I had brought candy for everyone. Then I just did my best to project my voice to the back row – not an easy task for me. I think my favorite surreal moment was realizing that people were TAKING NOTES from what I was saying. Huzzah!
In the end, I have no idea how I actually did – it’s impossible to have perspective on your own presentation. But I didn’t pass out, which was a plus. The low moment was when I said that Henry only had two children – I was quickly reminded that no, he had three. Blurgh. It’s sort of like getting your own name wrong in front of a crowd of people, but these things happen.
A lot of people told me they liked the presentation a lot and that I helped them make the process of researching and writing a historical novel seem less daunting – this was exactly my goal. So here’s hoping people enjoyed it. I was happy to get the experience; I have to assume that they get easier from here on in. But next time I’ll still wear my red boots. Why mess with what works?