Archive for category Lifestyle
Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while will know that a few years ago I joined Sutton Coldfield Speakers’ Club in order to gain the public speaking confidence necessary to promote myself and my books at author events. Last week I was part of a panel of three judges for a speech competition at a neighbouring club. The speeches were 6 to 8 minutes long and had a completely open theme.
All the speakers were confident in front of an audience and all chose subjects with wide appeal. They all did well. After we’d decided on the winner and runner-up, we judges discussed the points the head judge should make in her summing up of the competition. The aim of the summing up was to give general advice for the contestants and members of the audience to take away. Listed below are some of these points plus other tips I picked up from my observation of the speakers. They maybe useful to those of you devising an author talk:
- Beware of meaningless gestures i.e. continually moving your arms as you speak
- Beware of keeping your arms rigidly still throughout – include a few meaningful gestures e.g. expanding your arms to describe the size of something or stamping a foot to jolt/surprise the audience
- Project your voice from the very first word you utter. Grab the audience’s attention!
- Don’t continually sway from side to side or move your weight from one foot to another. It’s disconcerting to watch a human pendulum!
- Inject a little humour. Not in the form of a joke but perhaps a throwaway observation on something the audience is familiar with.
- Make eye contact with all parts of the audience – this means shifting your eye gaze around the room as you speak.
- Speak with minimal reference to notes – this will free you up to make appropriate gestures and make lots of eye contact with your audience. Don’t read your talk!
From my own experience, I would add – don’t be put off if someone in the audience falls asleep. This has happened to me twice when speaking to groups of older ladies. The first time I put it down to the fact that we’d all just enjoyed a nice, big lunch. The second time, the organiser warned me in advance that one particular lady always went to sleep when they had a speaker and sure enough, I saw her head nod and her eyes close quite soon after I’d started.
However many times you do it, speaking in public is nerve-wracking – if you’d like to practise in front of a sympathetic audience, find a Speakers’ Club near you.
Do you ever get weeks when life seems to rush at you like a steam train and there’s barely time to eat or sleep? I’ve just had a couple of those weeks.
The catalyst was a four day weekend away. I’m NOT complaining about that, I had a lovely time at Nidd Hall near Harrogate with my mum and sister. But it meant that for two consecutive weeks I lost one of my two writing days (the three days a week for my day job still had to be fulfilled). In week one most of the remaining writing day was swallowed up by an author talk for a Women’s Institute group and in week two it was eaten into by the monthly reading group I coordinate, followed by a nighttime Black Friday rehearsal.
In case you’ve been living on the moon for the last few years, Black Friday is an opportunity for everyone and his dog to get stuck into some early Christmas shopping as retailers slash prices online and in store. It falls on the last Friday in November but preparations have already begun. The retailer I’m involved with staged an overnight rehearsal last week to ensure the website could cope with a large amount of price changes and customer activity. I acted as scribe for the rehearsal, providing a live feed about all the technical goings-on. It could be classed as a form of writing/communication but everything happened so quickly there was no time to edit or review my words, so it went straight out, typos and all.
Also, week two ended with a night of no gas supply, meaning no hot water or central heating. Following the installation of a new gas main in the road our gas couldn’t be turned back on due to a fault with the meter. Apparently, the meter is the responsibility of the gas supplier and we discovered to our cost that our gas supplier had no out of hours emergency phone line. So it was the next morning before an engineer was despatched to sort us out. Needless to say, we will shortly be changing energy suppliers to avoid being caught like this again.
On top of all of the above, the final typeset proofs of The Promise arrived for my attention. I’d hoped to read them ‘on the go’ on my Kindle but because they were in PDF format the font couldn’t be enlarged and even with reading glasses I couldn’t read them (old age!). So I had to make time at the PC to go through them.
Fingers crossed, this coming week should be back to normal. There’s lots to catch up on, including preparing guest blog posts for you lovely people who’ve agreed to host me and The Promise around launch time early next year. But right now I’m going to have a look at Julia Thorley’s Yoga Blog in the hope of finding some inner calmness!
Is it possible to have too much writing time?
One of my constant gripes is that I don’t have enough time to write. If the day job, the housework and general ‘stuff’ all disappeared, I would be prolific. The words for that bestselling novel would tumble from my brain through my fingers and onto the page. My success would be guaranteed. Or would it?
Those of you who are my Facebook friends will know that a nasty foot infection had me in hospital for four nights. The foot is going to take several weeks to fully heal and until it does my activities are severely restricted. This means I have more time to write. But I’ve found it very difficult to motivate myself. When the day stretches emptily in front of me, the urgency to do anything disappears. I’ve been getting up later, lying on the settee reading magazines and checking Twitter and Facebook ten times more often than usual. My excuse is that I’m convalescing, catching up on the sleep I lost in a noisy hospital ward and recovering from the stress of fighting with an NHS which wouldn’t give me a treatment plan. I’ve been told to sit with my foot up as much as possible – and the most comfortable place to do this is on the settee not behind a desk. I could write longhand as I lounge around but that seems like too much effort and what’s the hurry, at the moment I don’t have to cook, wash up, iron etc. (thank you, husband!) so I have all the time in the world.
Result: I have time handed to me on a plate and I waste it.
Lesson learned: My dream of giving up the day job and becoming a full-time writer may not work for me. When time is limited I make much better use of it.
What’s your musical era? When did you transition from child into young adult and have all those special first experiences: first teenage party, first visit to a pub or club, first kiss, first date etc. ?
For me it was the early 1980s. Songs by Adam and the Ants, Soft Cell, Human League and Frankie Goes to Hollywood always whisk me back to that time and I feel again the strong emotions that seemed to accompany everything I did. If I close my eyes when I hear ‘Tainted Love’, I’m at the university Union disco, dancing on a floor which is sticky with spilled beer. I feel the excitement and anticipation of a time when so many things were new and responsibilities were few.
Re-capturing this mood through music enables me to write from the heart about being young and in love. When I get in this zone it’s great – the words flow and I get lost in the story. Pete’s Story was the result of one such emotional interlude and my inspiration came (very loosely!) from a boy I went out with in my teens who was a member of a band.
What songs whisk you back to that heady time of new independence and experiences? And do they help with your writing today?
This blog post is part of a music themed blog event organised by Elaina James, a guest blogger on Mslexia. Her author page on Mslexia can be found at www.mslexia.co.uk/author/elainajames.
Details of participating bloggers in this event can be found on Elaina James’ blog.
Want an excuse to go and indulge in a pile of luscious new notebooks, a pack of brightly coloured pens, some pretty patterned ring-binders or some delightful sticky notes? Well here it is!
The website has a suggested list of things to do during this week. I particularly like the idea of a ‘stationery crawl’ which is like a pub crawl but with stationery instead of beer (but there’s nothing to stop you downing a glass or too – choosing notebooks is thirsty work!).
There’s a quiz to find out what kind of writing implement you are. I came out as “… a stylish fountain pen! A little bit messy at times as your ink smudges, but classy and timeless. You’re writing is flicks, twists and curls and words are most definitely your thing. You only need one pen and it’ll be your best friend forever”.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start indulging in every writer’s guilty pleasure – the smell of fresh paper, the allure of new pens and the promise of writing success if only you can find that perfect notebook!
(And if nothing else, this post has drilled into me that stationery with an’e’ is paper and stationary with an ‘a’ is motionless!)
I recently spoke to a successful copywriter on the telephone and was impressed by the businesslike way he handled both the call and his freelance working life.
We prearranged the call for a specific time and he rang me on the dot. He opened the conversation by determining how long I had available to talk. Then he briefly explained what he’d like to cover in the call (this gave us an agenda) and kept the discussion on track. It sounds rather strict but was all done in a very friendly manner.
During the course of the call he mentioned that he only checks email twice a day, once in the morning and again at the end of the afternoon. He doesn’t do social media and he doesn’t make himself available 24/7 via electronic gadgets.
I feel there’s a lesson to be learned here. Perhaps it’s something along the lines of : Successful writers act professionally and treat writing like a ‘proper’ job with proper hours. They don’t procrastinate or pretend that commenting on another writer’s cute kitten picture is a marketing activity.
Food for thought?
The article was written when Jamie was running 17,000 km from Vancouver to Buenos Aries to raise money for charity and it comprises his thoughts on how to keep going during an endurance event. When I read it, I felt that much of what he said could be applied to novelists who might be feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of their own challenge:
- Break things down into manageable chunks – it’s easier to imagine completing 500 words rather than 80,000 words
- Keep positive – banish that gremlin of doubt and concentrate on how great you’ll feel when you type ‘The End’
- Look after yourself – eat well, sleep well and take regular exercise
- Be motivated by the success of others – don’t be jealous when others get published, take it as a positive indicator that success as a writer is possible
- Ask for help – this might be help with the chores to give you more time to write or help with beta-reading or formatting for Kindle or anything else you are struggling with
- Make happiness a priority – if slogging over a novel is making you miserable, try a different form of writing instead
I think that last point is especially important – so be happy in your writing!