‘Feel the fear, and do it anyway!’
Don’t you just hate that saying? How about; ‘Feel the fear and run in the opposite direction as fast as you can!’ Yes. That’s more like me.
Before The Goldfish Boy was published I had quite a few easy years, not really being out of my comfort zone, coasting along doing my thing. But becoming an author changed EVERYTHING.
Exactly a year ago I had a chat with my lovely Publicity Manager at my publisher’s Scholastic, and we talked about me being involved with some ‘events’ when The Goldfish Boy was released. I gave her a nervous laugh as I realised what this actually meant.
One of my biggest fears.
I was the kind of child who sat in English class praying that the teacher wouldn’t choose me to read a passage from a book. And when I got older, somehow I managed to avoid standing up and speaking in meetings. In fact, the most I had ever done was talk in front of a group of friends.
No. Public speaking wasn’t for me. I’d just have to say I can’t do it. Absolutely not. Feel the fear and run away.
But… that would mean I would miss out on so much. School workshops, assembly presentations, literary festivals; there can be so many opportunities out there when you are a writer. Opportunities I had no idea existed. The most important being the chance to meet my readers. To meet the young people who have read and loved my book! I decided I couldn’t let that chance pass me by just because of a few nerves.
So, last January I gritted my teeth, practiced and practiced again and did a couple of small workshops in some lovely schools in Brighton. It went okay. I learnt a lot (ignore yawns – you can’t please everyone all of the time, don’t go too fast, move around when you talk, make entertaining Power Points to take the attention away from you for a moment, don’t read too much of your book and smile…) but I’d done it!
A year has gone by and I’ve now done numerous school visits, slowly working out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve gone from speaking to a small class of 25 children to assembly presentations in High Schools for 400. I’ve been on three local radio stations and next year will be my first time on TV. And I have LOVED it. I never dreamed that at my age I could conquer my fears and actually enjoy those things that made me feel sick with terror. I think that has been my biggest learning curve over the last year, that you can face the fear and you can run headlong towards it and come out the other side.
But my stage fright is nothing compared to the fears faced by my narrators of The Light Jar and The Goldfish Boy. Both of my heroes confront the things that scare them the most, and they do it with great courage and discover strengths they never realised they had. It might sound strange but I’m really proud of them.