My palms were clammy. I was in a cold sweat. My nerves were peaked like I was sitting inside the electricity room at the Museum of Science in Boston. I had a dry mouth and could barely form a thought in my head due to the tornado of feelings running through it in warp speed. It was seven o’clock in the morning yesterday when I woke up and I knew that in eleven short hours I was going to be standing in front of a room full of published and accomplished Authors telling them all about my book. The clock ticked far too quickly yesterday.
Public speaking has always been something I dread doing. Those who have known me all my life are generally surprised when I make this admission. But despite my comfort level in a room full of my nearest and dearest, I trip up when I have to talk to a room full of random people. I knew the SSWW ladies were going to be encouraging, I knew they would smile and congratulate me on the release of Ripple the Twine. But I was freaking out anyway.
As the day went on yesterday I kept running over and over in my head exactly how I was going to approach my thirty seconds of “fame”.
“Hi everyone! I’m Jenn Flynn-Shon and I’m an avid blogger. I’ve been a writer since I was fourteen and as of last Friday I can finally add the title ‘Author’ to my resume as my very first fiction novel, Ripple the Twine, was just released to the public! [pause for clapping] The story is about a Tomboy from Boston, Sara, who loves hockey, writes for a living, and meets a great guy through a close friend. The book addresses all manner of daily life struggles of Sara and her three closest friends and how their friendship could be the very thing that saves all of their lives from internal destruction. But I’m a sucker for a happy ending and this Tomboy-meets-Townie love story will leave you feeling upbeat and happy. Thanks!”
Awesome right? Well I should’ve brought cue cards.
I arrived and ran into another member as I was pushing the elevator button. She’s a woman that I’d talked with at length at the Author event the SSWW held a few months back in Scottsdale’s Mustang Library. A guest for the evening got in with us and the three of us started talking about getting up and speaking. The long-time member said it is so important to just get up and do it. I knew she was right but my heart started racing as soon as we walked into the room.
With over forty women expected that night I felt that my stomach-flip showed all over my face. But I’d dressed up in my super adorable pink and black party dress and matching pink cardigan. I had my book in my purse. I wore my comfy and cute patent leather flats. I got my name tag and chatted with Patricia, the President of the group, for a minute then took my usual seat at the “shy table”. I extracted my book and placed it on the table, ready to go.
I was, after all, armed with the best pitch ever! The introductions began and I listened as these wonderful women got up and unapologetically told all of us about their achievements. I internally repeated to myself (over and over) ‘you can do this, you will not be embarrassed, you will do just fine.’
It was our table’s turn at the mic. A new friend with a book I’m dying to dive into, Thomasina Burke Author of Magic Bridge, got up and spoke. She segued into me getting up. There was no hiding under the table as the entire room turned to look at me and smile. With a quick swig of water to wash down my last bite of salad (and hopefully rid my teeth of stray bits of romaine) I took a deep breath, gathered up my book and walked toward the front of the room.
I turned around with a smile to survey the space and face the crowd. Oh my goodness. Forty women is an endless sea when you’re nervous. But I was prepared damn it!
I opened my mouth, promptly swallowed the microphone, and in a neurotic blur, likely shrill enough to wake up sleeping dogs all over the neighborhood, I said…
“Hi I’m Jenn! skugykev vksjgoiaegv djaeklgae sdus8etrw fis90urtweg spiwstg Ripple the Twine sdghowhef, sertiuy, gljkropty, mvierg. Self-published pyw4,ry93 06836m, perty-3t4. Oh my full name is Jenn Flynn-Shon and guess that’s it!”
Clapping ensued. I have no idea why or how anyone understood the insanity that had just flowed out of my mouth. I know I said my name, my book’s name, held up the novel in my hand and backed off from the microphone eventually but I felt like I’d just rambled the last names of about 20 hockey players; that’s how decipherable my rambling was in my head.
But a strange thing happened when I got back to my seat. I realized that for the first time since seventh grade I’d stood in front of a room of people I hardly knew and spoke without the slightest hint of blushing from embarrassment. In fact, I was glowing inside.
I was still rolling on nerves by the end of my spiel but I wasn’t breaking out into hives like usual. The entire rest of the night I simply congratulated myself for conquering something that has plagued me most of my life – the inability to just own my shit.
Our presenter was an award winning, NY Times best-selling Author of seven mystery novels and someone I’ve heard speak before, Betty Webb. She’s funny and pointed and had the best advice I’ve ever heard – ‘Always be true to yourself in what you write. Even if it’s hard (or embarrassing) to admit it.’