Friday, April 23, 2010

Shyness and Apples and Port-a-Potties (Oh my!)

By Heather

Writing is often described as a lonely career. Sitting in front of a computer all day, mingling only with the characters in our heads for hours at a time... Months, sometimes a year, working on a novel day in and day out. Little sunshine, little exercise, little socializing...

And then, when it's time to promote the new book, the author is thrust into the public to talk, sign, read.

It's enough to make any shy person quake in their shoes.

And trust me, I've quaked.

I'm about as shy as people come, and I remember the first time I had to speak to a group, about eight years ago. My hands shook, my legs shook, my voice shook. I was terrified. Scared to death. But thankfully time and experience have helped tremendously, and I'm rarely nervous anymore. It helps knowing that people don't come to see me expecting a great orator--they just want to hear what I have to say. Even if it's in my own quirky, rambling way. I am who I am (hmm, I'm now hearing Popeye in my head), and that's who you'll see when you come to one of my events. (The pic is me with Denise Swanson and Marcia Talley in Bolingbrook, IL. 2008.)

But it took me a long time to get to that place. I never dreamed of being a public speaker as a teenager (hah!). It would have been at the bottom of any of my career lists. Right under port-a-potty cleaner. I'm in awe of kids who can do this so easily, as if second nature. Kids like my daughter.

Now, that apple doesn't fall far from this tree. She's on the shy side, too, but put her on a stage and she comes alive. It's an amazing to watch. She has a supporting role (a pirate's sidekick) in her high school's musical this week, and she's funny and expressive, and (oh dear lord--I'd have hives for sure) she has a small singing solo. Where on earth she finds the nerves to do something like that, I'll never know. I'm telling you, there is No Way I'd EVER get on stage and sing to a crowded auditorium (and trust me, you wouldn't want to hear it). Yet I'm filled with pride watching her do it, my eyes rarely leaving her face as she dances, twirls, sword-fights, sings (she's a great singer!) and delivers a punchline.

Kind of like the way her eyes watch me when I'm talking to a room full of book lovers (minus the sword fights of course)... It does this mother's heart good.

How about you? Are you shy or outgoing? And the bigger question: Would you ever sing a solo on stage in front of a crowd (I can feel the hives starting already just thinking about it!)?

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