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  1. #1
    A Roby

    What to talk about?

    I'm the first-time author of a soon-to-be-published memoir. My publicist has arranged for me to give a talk/reading at a local arts center. I have no problem with the reading part. But the "talk" part is freaking me out.

    Having neither given nor attended a talk/reading, I have no idea how these events work. The publicist says I should “talk” for 15 or 20 minutes, read from the book for 5 minutes, wrap up with a 10-15 minute Q&A, and then head to the table to sell and sign books.

    As stupid as it sounds, I could use some advice on how to arrive on a topic for my talk. Is it enough to just talk about how I conceived and wrote the book? What other types of things do authors talk about when they give talks?

    I can't believe I can write a 300-page book, but am completely clueless as to how to conceive and structure a 15-minute talk. I think it's because I also have horrible stage fright, but I've got Inderal for that.

    Thanks for any help you may be able to provide.

  2. #2
    Cathy C

    Re: What to talk about?

    Since it's a memoir, you'll want to talk about the key events in your life that will "grab" the listener. Consider the talk a little like a short story--there should be a beginning (the hook of the individual event), a middle (building the suspense) and an ending (whether it's horrible or wonderful doesn't matter. But it should interest the listener enough to pick up the book.

    Think about it like a movie preview on television. Have you ever watched a preview, got all excited to see the movie, watched it and realized that the preview was the BEST part? Remember how you felt cheated?

    Don't do that. Word of mouth will MURDER subsequent sales. Choose an event from the memoir that gives an overall impression, is interesting, but not the big CLIMAX of the book.

    Or, in the alternative, you could pick something that ties in with the subject. For example, if the memoir has instances of abuse, talk about the CONCEPT of abuse and some of the sources of help that are out there. Same with alcohol or drugs or incest. It's the "Hope for a Cure" angle that will make people want to find out what you experienced and how you've endured it.

    Also, ask YOURSELF some questions if they're not forthcoming from the audience to fill those last minutes. If you ask for questions and hear crickets, you can say something like, "Well, a question that was asked at a previous conference was..." This gives the audience the impression that a) you've done this before; and b) You already KNOW there are questions and can field them smoothly. Sometimes that opens up the flood gates.

    Don't be discouraged if you wind up talking to yourself. That happens a lot at these things. There's no shame in it. It's just part of the game.

    Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  3. #3
    Jeanne Gassman

    Re: What to talk about?

    Talk about what inspired you to write the book. How did you put the book together? How long did it take you to write it? You can also talk about the writing process itself. Where do you write? How many words/hours a day? Did you work with a critique group, individual readers, or take a class? That sort of thing. People are fascinated by what makes an artiste tick, so give them a litte insight into how you made this book come about.

    I would talk no more than 15 minutes because people are eager to hear you read from your work. You will also find that about half of your audience may be comprised of wannabe authors. Be prepared to answer questions about rejections, agents, query letters, etc.

    Be sure to have water at your side to keep your throat hydrated. If it helps, bring along a prop (something from your book) to keep your hands busy and give you a focal point. These people are interested in YOU. Don't forget to have fun with this. I love talking to people who have read my work.

    Relax and enjoy the party.


  4. #4
    padma narayanswamy

    Re: What to talk about?

    Author Padma Narayanswamy
    Many people suffer from stage fright stnd in front of the miror and deliver your speech along with it say some auto suggestion like
    I am confident that I will speak well this i hope will help you

  5. #5
    A Roby

    Re: What to talk about?

    Thanks for responding--your advice is helpful, and welcome. Hope to hear from more of you, too! And I'll definitely let everyone know how it goes.

  6. #6
    gulliver h

    Re: What to talk about?

    yep, I'm with you on the Inderol--an absolute life-saver. Add a half a valium to that and you'll be just dandy. (my preferred cocktail.) Also, try from the very beginning to involve the audience--ask them to ask you something right off the bat--or better ask them something--so it's an interactive talk, not just one-way. You'll feel better, it will go faster, etc., etc. You'll be surprised, it won't be as bad as you think--might even be great! Good luck!

  7. #7
    Steven Quinn

    Re: What to talk about?

    The group has provided some excellent advice. I think you're psyching yourself out. Relax, imagine failure, accept the consquences (something short of immediate death, I'll wager), and then realize how unlikely it is that you'll actually fail.

    You know, last night I taught a writing course to a group of college students, and man, I was on fire. I felt the ghost of Socrates up there, steering my charges in the right direction, imparting loads of practical advice, making them laugh, lighting fires under their asses.

    Tonight, I taught a different writing class to a similar group of people, and for the first half, I wasn't able to hit the right notes. I was energetic but off-kilter. I finally took a break and, puffing furiously on a cigarette, called my wife to tell her what was going on. She told me to relax and quit trying to perform as well as I'd performed the night before.

    That helped me a great deal. I think the second class of tonight's class went better than any part of last night's class went.

    Good luck, and remember, relax.

  8. #8
    Payal Shah Karwa

    Re: What to talk about?

    hi..i dont know if i am too late for this..but just a suggestion tha might help: during my presentation skills class, we were taught that stage fright is due to the 'reptilian' brain of a humnan..reptilian because like a reptile it is scared of changes..or shifts in the lateral sense..move slightly and the reptile will scurry away...when u get up to deliver the speech, ur reptlian brain is at work because it senses a change from its comfortable position... but u need to relax totally...butterflies in the tummy, adrenaline rush..its a natural thing that hapens to best of speakers..so a few tips on how they tackle this:

    1) as soon as u stand there, smile a nice smile at the people

    2) think of a cracking line or a humourous line like ' i am prone to alzheimers, so i thought of compiling of my memoirs' or somehting like that ..dont forget to grin at ur own joke.this wil put u and the auience at ease..else if they think u are boring..which i m sure u wont be, they might make u nervous ..when u begin this way the rest of it wud be smooooth

    3) make comfortable eye contact with them..let them feel u are talking TO them

    4) pause between sentences..but not for long..give urself space

    and most imp..5) be your natural self and get engrosses in what you are talking..dont think of what the audience is thinking..if you know what you are talking the audience wil enjoy..just make a few points in order

    i guess this might help u make a rocking speech..all the best if it isnt over yet!

  9. #9
    June Casagrande

    Re: What to talk about?

    You are not alone. I had the same anxiety/confusion (what the hell would they WANT to hear me talk about?).

    As others have said here, bookstore attendees are interested in the process that led to your book and/or any interesting/entertaining anecdotes or stories surrounding it. That's all.

    You'll do fine!

    - June

  10. #10
    June Casagrande

    Re: What to talk about?

    Forgot to add: DON'T be discouraged if it's a small turnout or no turnout. It's very common in the biz and not a reflection on you or your work. Bookstore staff are very used to it, too, so don't worry about what they think if you get a small turnout. (I've had very small ones, very big ones and one nobody one. It happens to everybody who isn't already big.)

    Just also read your follow-up post about nervousness/preparation. These people are not expecting Dr. Martin Luther King. They're expecting an awkward, shy writer type and they're hoping that person will just offer a little insight into their guts and the birth of the book. In other words, what they really want to is for you to be you.

    You don't have to wow 'em with a "speech." Just tell them how/why the book came to be.

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