Friday, 13 March 2009

No room for shrinking violets

It's funny how the years change us.

I was never an outgoing kid - outside my close-knit group of friends, I was fairly shy, or at least never one who wanted to be the centre of attention. I skulked at the back when it was time to cast plays and tried to wriggle out of any attempt to include me in a presentation. The bottom line was, I didn't like performing in front of people. More precisely, I didn't like performing in front of people I didn't know.

After studying journalism at university, I went to Moldova for six months to teach English. I was 23 by this time and had several classes, ranging from six years old to sixteen, and if anyone needs short, sharp shock treatment for getting over nerves relating to standing up in front of people and fearing for your reputation, I'd recommend some teaching every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Several years in journalism helped things along; you can't be a journalist - scratch that, you can't be an effective journalist - if you're shy and reserved. All that said, it's only in the last four or five years that I've started to feel comfortable talking in front of groups.

While travelling for The Manx Connection, I was asked by most societies to give a talk on the book, about why I was writing it and what I'd learned on my globetrotting. The experience has stood me in good stead. The audiences ranged from seven or eight to thirty or forty. It got to the stage where, when my friend asked me to be best man a couple of years ago, I was actually looking forward to the speech, although I can't deny it wasn't nervewracking or that I hit the odd bum note.

If you harbour any aspirations of being a successful writer, giving talks and readings are part and parcel of the game in today's publishing industry. There's just no getting around it - if you can't buy into the whole marketing and promotion game, you'll find the odds stacked against you from the start.

Anyway, this Tuesday (March 17), I'm at it again. I've been invited by the Isle of Man Literary Society to give the annual Olive Lamming Address and will be attempting to keep the audience in the land of the living with a talk on The Manx Giant.

The book is being published later this year, and obviously the hope is that the talk will generate a bit of interest and help sales along. But it's also a chance to educate people about Arthur Caley, who I've grown very fond of in the last couple of years, and put some of the inaccuracies and myths about him to bed.

So, if you're in the Isle of Man and free on Tuesday evening, doors open at the Henry Bloom Noble Library in Douglas at 7.00pm, for a 7.30pm kick-off. No booking necessary, just turn up on the night.

I promise you, there'll be no tall tales.

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