Thursday, October 16, 2014

That One Time Stefanie Made a Fool of Herself in Front of a Bunch of People but Still Lived to Tell the Tale and It Was All Okay in the End

Hi Secret Lifers! *waves furiously* It's been waaaay too long! How are you? You look great. I love what you've done with your hair.

Right, so, in case you missed it--I'm a published author now!


Pretty wild stuff. I'm still waiting for someone to jump out and yell "just kidding!" and then for all of my books and all traces of their existence to poof because seriously is this real life? And I was going to ramble on about that feeling for this first post back, but then something else happened this week that I wanted to talk about instead. And what was that, you ask? Well, it was the absolute most terrifying part (for me) about this whole published-author thing: my first public presentation (dun dun dun).

Hey look! It's me!

As part of teen read week, I partnered with my local library and ran a creative writing workshop and presentation about publishing for area teens a few days ago. And it was awesome! And, as I said before, it was terrifying!

When one of the librarians reached out to me a month or so ago about doing this, my introverted, extreme social anxiety knee-jerk reaction was basically this:

But then I remembered how, earlier this year, I made a promise to myself that I would do a better job of getting out of my comfort zone and actually interacting with people. And, to cut myself some slack for once, I will say that I've done a pretty good job of sticking to that goal. This year I've gone on a writing retreat (with people I'd never met before!), I've stopped shying away from random conversations in coffeeshops, I met my agent in person, and I've finally learned how to answer the question "what do you do for a living" by telling people I write and then going on to explain my career and aspirations in an intelligent way instead of melting into a pile of mumbles and awkwardly shuffling away. It's been a year of big steps, for sure. And so after contemplating it for a bit, I wrote back to the librarian and told her yes! I'd love to!

The love part was a total lie but that's okay. I'm a writer. I sort of make stuff up for a living.

So the day of the presentation arrives. My husband and I are on the way to the library, and to give you an idea of how crazy my social anxiety can be, I actually said to my husband: what I wouldn't give to go into labor right now so I would have a valid excuse to not have to go to this thing.

Yes, that's right: I'm less freaked out by birthing another human being than I am by the thought of giving a presentation to a few teenagers.

I am a ridiculous person and I know it.

Anyway, my daughter remains snug in my stomach as I type this, so you can probably guess that I did, in fact, have to go through with what I'd committed to do. And, *spoiler alert*, I survived it. Not the way I'd planned on, though; see, I had this really detailed outline all typed up, and I was going to follow it to make my presentation easier. To make it fantastically detailed and informing and...yeah, somehow I still had really high expectations for this thing, even though I was almost certain I was going to bomb.

And I sort of did bomb. I guess because the best laid schemes of mice and men are often going awry and all that. I ended up abandoning my outline within five minutes of starting, because I am so not a public speaker, and I could tell my audience was very painfully aware of that, and they were checking out. So I ended up improvising. No more plans, no more expectations about how it would go--I just turned the session into an impromptu Q and A and then we all just sat around and talked. About writing, about publishing, about anything they wanted to know.

And they asked awesome questions, and answering those questions would lead to more questions, and at some point I even stopped watching the clock and silently begging the minutes of my hour-long session slot to go by faster. I actually relaxed and had fun. The teens did too, I think; even after we broke the formal session and everyone was mingling and eating desserts the library provided, they were still coming up to me and asking questions. It was actually really cool. And in the end, I think I would have been much more disappointed in myself if I hadn't shown up at all, than I was about getting off to a rocky start.

So I guess the secret I want to share with this post is this: you don't have to be an awesome public speaker, or even an extrovert, to get out there and personally connect with readers. And it's okay to still be scared of things, even once you reach that "officially published author" stage. Even if you totally bomb, it's still going to be okay in the end. Promise. :)

Stefanie Gaither writes YA novels about killer clones and spaceships, with the occasional romp with dragons and magic-users thrown in for good measure. Said writing is generally fueled by an obscene amount of coffee and chocolate, as well as the occasional tennis and/or soccer break. She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary, and her debut YA sci-fi novel, FALLS THE SHADOW, is available NOW from Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers!

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