Over the past year, I have gone around and given presentations to introduce my book Once upon a Mulberry Field to the reading public, and to share some of the memories and stories that had inspired me to write it. Many friends and supporters have asked me what the responses from such live audiences were like, so I’m glad to share that experience with all of you today.
First of all, like many of you, I’m not a born public speaker, and I usually become more reserved in a large group setting. Worse, when I get nervous, as while standing in front of a crowd of strangers (even a crowd of two), my words tend to run together, causing me to trip and falter, or they would escape me altogether, resulting in an embarrassing tongue-tied situation. So it was no surprise that my first few times venturing out on the speaking circuit were nerve-racking experiences, from which I emerged drained and hugely relieved. But I’m glad to report that there’s some truth to the saying “Practice makes perfect,” as things do get better with repetition, even if slowly.
What really helped me conquer my nerves, however, was the early realization that most people are kind and accepting. If they’ve made the decision to show up at my talks, it’s because they are genuinely interested in hearing what I have to share. They didn’t come for a professional, rehearsed sales pitch. They came ready to connect on a personal level, to hear the story behind the story: What motivated me to write? Was the material fact-based or pure fiction? What was my own experience like, growing up in the war?
I’ve been very fortunate to have been invited to speak at a number of different venues: book clubs, libraries, travel club, church group, rotary club, a writers’ group, even a spa-resort. Sometimes as part of the general discussion about the book after the group had selected and read it, and sometimes to introduce the book for the very first time. No matter what the circumstances, the reaction was the same: the more I opened up to people, the more they responded in kind. The most rewarding, and humbling, part of my presentations was at the end, when people came up to shake my hand and to tell me what the book or my talk had meant to them, both in terms of understanding and, for some, healing. And when such heartfelt sentiments actually came from a veteran or a veteran’s family member, I can’t even begin to express how I felt in that moment.
So now you’ll probably understand when I say that these face-to-face interactions with readers, along with the writing itself, are my favorite part of the whole publishing journey. They’re not great sales venues by any stretch, but they help reaffirm in my mind time and again the reason why I write in the first place. In a very human, tangible way, they remind me what true success can really be.