Its been a busy spring. As mentioned here, I've been doing a lot of public speaking, both to kids and adults. If I knew this would be part of my job 10 years ago when I got started I seriously wonder if I would have gone into publishing at all. I've always been fairly terrified of speaking in front of a group- when I had my first school visit I couldn't sleep for two days beforehand. Literally I laid in bed frozen in terror for two nights. Of course the visit went fine.
But strangely, as I've acclimated over the past several years to this part of the job (or rather learned to manage the anxiety), I start to find myself enjoying it. Saturday, for instance. I was one of the speakers at a half day conference put on by the Foundation for Children's Books, a really lovely organization here in Boston that puts on kids book events throughout the year.
When I first showed up for the event at the Athenaeum Library (a historic 200 year old independent library in downtown Boston), I was more than a little intimidated. This library is AMAZING.
This is the ornate entryway:
The floor to ceiling windows looked out on the cemetery where Mother Goose is buried:
And the screen on which I was to present towered over the room, which was quickly filling with librarians and teachers:
To make matters worse the first speaker of the day was Jack Gantos, a seasoned and famously charming speaker. He was one of those people who can just float from topic to topic, mixing broad insightful comments about the nature of art and literature and life with funny stories about Jenna Bush and kids with velcro sneakers. I sat in the audience in awe, that is when I wasn't mentally reviewing my talk and how I could make it pale less in comparison.
Then suddenly something occurred to me. It might seem kind of obvious, but I don't think I've really taken it to heart before. He was talking about his life. I was about to go up there and talk about my life. Our lives are vastly different, but that doesn't make his experiences better or worse than mine. They hired him to speak because of what he has to offer, and I have something different.
Suddenly that was a freeing thought. Because I don't really have a choice about it. I can't choose to be him or anyone else. All I really have to offer is who I am and what I know, no more no less. Suddenly I felt calm. When it was my turn I went up there and gave the talk I planned to give, relatively at ease and it was fun; the audience was great, stories came easily to mind and I felt like I gave an honest representation of me and my work. One of the attendees pulled me aside after and said it was "the best author/illustrator presentation she'd ever heard." I felt delighted, like an elephant might feel if it suddenly realized it could play the violin.
I can't remember a time when I've enjoyed public speaking more. I don't know if I'll always manage this state of mind when I have a job to do, but I pulled it off for one day at least, so I know that it is possible.