Nobody told me that once I became a real, honest to goodness, not faking it anymore AUTHOR... I'd have to do the whole public speaking thing. I mean, honestly, the whole reason I write is because I have long conversations to people who aren't real. Characters are low maintenance friends that basically require nothing in return because...duh, their fictional. I like the idea of spending hours hiding behind my laptop, holed up in my office and snickering to myself as I plot away. It's...comfortable.
So, it should be no surprise that I don't speak well in public. My mouth goes dry, my top lip sticks to my front teeth and I start saying a lot of super lame things like "uh..." and "ya know..." and "so, um..." all followed by copious amounts nervous sweating. I even get that jittery tick under my right eye that just drives me up the wall. And I can't forget that my hands shake –VISIBLY shake– like I've got malaria or something. The entire idea of public speaking mortifies me.
So, NATURALLY, I signed up to talk to a group of second and fifth graders about what it takes to be an author. The second graders were a breeze. At that age, the things they care about are that the ideas for my books are a little silly and I brought illustrations for them to look at. Their questions were super easy. Little hands shot into the air as they could hardly wait to say... "Oooh! Ooh! Miss Peterson! I have a birthday in November!!" or "Miss Peterson! My favorite color is pink!"
The fifth graders have a completely different mojo. Or so I thought...
I spent a bit more time preparing for the older kids. I brought in my sketch book, my outlines, color coded index of characters and all of my research material. I wanted them to SEE what it takes to write a full length novel. I was going to talk about story structure and creativity. It was a perfectly planned lesson that had me leaving most of my super fun illustrations back at my office. All was wonderful until I got to the school and...
The evil PTA swapped me with third grade. Not fifth grade. THIRD. The illustrations and funny bits about writing would have been perfect, but no. I'd left it all at home. I was high and dry without a leg to stand on. But I soldiered on, hands shaking and mouth dry as a bone. The kids were very polite and sweet as they feigned interest for about five minutes. Then I got the dreaded dead eye stare, slow mouth breathing and glazed blank faces.
Oh yeah. I STUNK IT UP. Epically!
And if I wasn't already terribly aware of how badly I had done, the PTA mom who organized the entire ordeal says, "Soooo, that was lovely. Yesterday's presentation with the second graders was amazing. It's to bad you didn't have a chance to pull out your illustrations." Thank you, my dear, for confirming my failure.
I think I'm going to go hide behind my laptop now. I need so quality time talking to myself. Heck, I think I might kill one of them off while I'm at it.