Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Stepping out into the world

Next month, I will be taking part in the Elgin Literary Festival, an event organized to promote literacy and celebrate the written word. I will be in stellar company, including the NYT best-selling author, Simone Elkeles (and if you've ever met her/seen her/heard her, you know she's a hoot. I swear this woman has no filters). She's the keynote speaker, and every address I've heard her deliver has been highly entertaining (if slightly "blue").

Authors, by nature, tend to be introverted sorts, so stepping out into the limelight can be overwhelming. I've posted on this blog before about "gearing up" to meet people. I'm not painfully shy, although I am the one who would prefer to stand quietly in the corner of a room and observe rather than step up and introduce myself to everyone at a party.

I am always happy to meet the people who buy my books, happy to introduce newcomers to what I've written. I'm excited to be part of a panel at this event, which more or less puts me "on stage." Excited by the opportunity, and yet it will require a skill I've only developed within the last ten years (and probably only six, but who's counting?): speaking when I have something to say.

As the youngest of four girls, I grew up in the shadow. Don't speak unless spoken to. Mine was the fourth (and therefore least important) opinion. For years, I deferred to my older, and therefore wiser, sisters. Eventually, we all grew up. I'm not that mouse in the corner anymore.

In my professional life, I was able to speak to people individually with ideas, but often struggled in large groups. Those individuals helped me to break out of that. One friend in particular encouraged me to share my "great ideas" with the group. I credit one of my mentors/bosses with giving me the opportunity to prove myself, and there were enough "individuals" who'd heard my voice to push me forward and give me the confidence to speak to the groups.

As an author, I've been able to translate this confidence into approaching people I don't know, especially at events like this one. If they're at a literary festival, that means they like books. I write books, what a coincidence! Instantly, we have something in common, something to talk about. And if they like MY books, well, that's a bonus. And that's what keeps an author writing.

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