Monday, May 5, 2008
First-Time Book Reading Jitters
I will be appearing at SoulFood Books in Redmond, WA this Thursday, May 8 from 7:00-8:00 p.m. reading excerpts from my new book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism and answering questions from the audience, of which hopefully there will be at least a few!
As a first-time author new to the book reading circuit I thought I should research my role online and perhaps pick up some tips on how to make a decent presentation and not bore my audience.
One article entitled “Tools of the Trade: Readings” by Charlie Stross made me smile with Rule #1: “The audience is not your enemy.” It had never occurred to me to think of them that way, but the author went on to make a good point—we are not performance artists. Writers are unaccustomed to creating in public, writing is a very slow and private undertaking which would bore most people silly to watch take place. A reading of your book (especially mine, which chronicles the amusing, and hopefully sometimes inspiring progress of my adventures in healing with animals and people) is an airing of your innermost thoughts in a venue where the audience can SEE you and make observations about you not just your work. Great, never that comfortable with public speaking to begin with, Charlie has now made me more nervous than ever!
So, how to turn my angst into a source of strength? Charlie continues with the information that “to start with, people who turn up to your reading with be either friends, fans, or the randomly curious, in descending order of probability.” Hmm, while not a native of this area having emigrated here in 1999 from the East coast, I have called the Alki neighborhood of West Seattle home for seven years. If I think of everyone from this geographic region as my neighbor that should help (note to self, I will clear the popular Seattleite reference to Redmond as “the Evil East side” from my mental storage compartments). So, I now have my plan of action, in my mind every person in the audience will be a friend or potential friend.
Now, on to the program, what do I read? An hour does not seem like a long time until you are the only person speaking. Although my years of teaching Reiki and shamanic classes to captive students has given me some ability to hold the attention of my audience at least until that last cup of Seattle coffee necessitates a bathroom break, I can’t rely on the same techniques, this event is not for paying students invested in learning a healing modality, this event is free to a more general audience. After deliberation I decide that I should choose an eclectic mix, something for everyone: humor, suspense, pathos (sometimes all in the same story!), with perhaps a strong leaning toward animal lovers (not a difficult choice considering the book contents).
So far I plan on including a reading of “Two Dogs,” a true story of two lost dogs that found their home again through an emotional appeal to me and the kind efforts of two elderly neighbors. For me it was an early experience of the validity of animal communication before it became a part of my professional life. Then perhaps a segue into my move here from Massachusetts entitled “As the Stomach Churns,” a comic chronicle of the madcap adventures of moving with animals. To honor my connection and appreciation of the beauty and wildlife still present in the city, specifically in Alki, I think I might read “At the Edge of Two Worlds,” a story of my first encounters with seal pups on the beaches of Alki and the use of Reiki for babysitting. Still a toss-up whether to stick to the humorous with “Guns and Mesas,” a recounting of what happens when a shaman encounters a security check at the airport and the shamanic wedding blessing that the guests at my youngest sister’s wedding will never forget (and I can include the use of props which should qualify for performance art), or to get serious with “The House That Love Built,” a story of my father's death and my revelations about his life which coincided with the events of 9-11. I am leaning toward getting a bit serious in light of the situation in Tibet as well as other hot spots around the world, but perhaps there will be time for both.
In any case, no matter what I read, I will actively use what I have learned from my healing and teaching practice: I will send Reiki to the situation so that I will remain calm and that my words may be heard as I intend, and that the listener will receive whatever they need. This means that I must let go of attachment to outcome and simply be present and available. I will do my best, and set my intention toward welcoming many new friends and neighbors (Eastside and Westside) to my first book reading event, SoulFood Books, here I come!