Today we have memoirist, Mary Lynn Archibald, visiting Writers Inspired to share her tips on speaking in public. As authors, we need to prepare for connecting with our readers in real time, not just through our written words. Not only does Mary Lynn offer her insight, but one copy of her latest book, Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue to one lucky winner. Just leave a comment or question for Mary Lynn to be entered in the drawing (US residents only, please. Drawing ends at midnight tonight!)
Carl dreamed of wide open spaces…think Bonanza here…while Mary Lynn dreamed of gardens overflowing with flowers, elegance and thoroughbred horses…think Town and Country here. Accidental Cowgirl is the tale of their search for the perfect retirement spot and the unexpected place they ended up calling home. When they purchased Twin Creeks Ranch their dreams were quickly replaced by a reality of ornery irrigation systems, calluses, and wild turkeys. And that was just the first week!
If you’ve ever found yourself smack dab in the middle of a wacky adventure or even just wished for a wacky adventure, don’t miss the tale of this couple who went from city dwellers to cowhands with the signing of a deed. Will they survive? Will the cows? Would you?
Accidental Cowgirl was declared a finalist for three awards: the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Humor, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Memoir, and the National Best Book Awards (NBBA) for humor.
I Have to Speak? Managing a Successful Author Appearance
First of all, practice your speech until you can make it in a relaxed and confident manner. Bring notes. Practice your hook. You do have one, don’t you? Remember, you’ve only got a few seconds to get them on your side and reel them in.
Bring books, pens, posters, business cards, bookmarks, postcards, and whatever else you’ve dreamed up for on-the-spot sales and marketing. Let the group sponsoring the event know well ahead of special needs like a screen, podium, easel or microphone.
Make sure there’s a table by the door where you can display your goodies, and a table where you may sign books. If possible, bring a friend to collect money while you schmooze. Have them collect names and e-mail addresses, if possible, but one should never be pushy.
The questions I’m invariably asked when speaking to groups of writers (or would-be writers) fall into these general categories:
- When did you decide to write Accidental Cowgirl, and when and how did you get into writing?
- What is your writing process?
- What is your editing process?
- How did you publish? What kinds of costs were involved?
- What kind of marketing have you done?
- What awards have you won and how did you come to win them?
If you’re speaking to a small group and you have oodles of time, you can make a stab at answering them all, but for large groups, I usually only manage to answer the first couple in any detail.
But all is not lost (though you should have answers ready for them all, just in case). I tell my audience that I cover these and other interesting subjects in my “Art of Memoir” classes, announce the dates, and let them know there is a signup sheet at the back table, where I will be signing books after the program.
Bring interesting props. As the story is true, I bring a photo album, and since my book is called, Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue, I bought a kid’s hobby horse at the dollar store, and take it with me whenever I speak, saying, “This time I brought my horse.” It’s a good ice-breaker.
Dress professionally, but don’t overdress for the crowd. If they wear jeans, you wear slacks. If they are wearing dresses, perhaps a suit is too formal, but leave that flowered number at home. Wear something a little businesslike, and in a color that flatters your skin tones. Too much jewelry is distracting, especially if it jangles.
Last (and this is my personal preference), control that hair, and let them see your pretty face!
© 2010 Mary Lynn Archibald
Mary Lynn Archibald is a freelance editor and copywriter, and the author of two books: Briarhopper: A History, a memoir of one woman’s life from 1913-1945, and Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue, a lighthearted personal memoir of a greenhorn’s life on a small cattle ranch. Her forthcoming memoir, due out in early 2011, deals in part with her life as a San Francisco chorus girl.
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