Monday, 10 February 2014

A dedication to Pete McCarthy on giving my first author talk/reading.

The run up weeks were scary. I was going to be on stage on my own for an hour: the plan was to speak for 45 mins and take questions for the next 15. Then, if all went well – to sell and sign a few books.

During preparation, it was tricky trying to come out of my author head and what I thought I wanted to say and instead step into the mind of the audience and consider what do they want to know.
So I framed the talk around these imaginary questions:

1.      Who are you?
2.      What have you written and why?
3.      How did you get published?
4.      What’s this book about?
5.      How is it selling/how are you marketing it?

I decided to swap the order of 3 and 4 because an author on Twitter had said, when you talk about your book, talk about your characters. I realised that I had to bring them to life for the audience to make them care about the book and therefore to have an investment in its publication and success.

What mattered most to me is that anyone can tell the factual story of how they got published. But that in itself is not necessarily interesting (unless they found a unique path). So I wanted a better angle and decided that the primary need of the audience was to feel encouraged, inspired and to grasp the possibility that ‘if she can, maybe I can…’

Because that’s how it happened for me. I hadn’t long been living in Brighton when I saw that the Comedian/travel writer, Pete McCarthy was doing a talk and readings from his new book McCarthy’s Bar. I went along and thoroughly enjoyed the evening, bubbling with a delicious envy. I told him so as he signed a copy for me at the end. I told him I was writing and I wanted to do what he did. He signed my copy ‘One day this will be you.’

Two years later he was touring again with the next book The Road to McCarthy. I wasn’t able to see him, but my friends did, and bought me a book asking him to sign it for Sinéad. He asked, ‘that’s not Sinéad that’s writing the book, who I spoke to last time?’ They were impressed that he remembered me, saying yes, and she’s still writing. So he signed my copy, ‘just keep on trying.’ 

How I wish he was here to thank. I’ve thought of him a lot since getting …but I love you published, and realised when I was preparing my talk that I was writing it when I met him that first time.

So I took the stage, with nowhere to hide, my script in case I panicked and got lost, and my book, armed with his encouragement, and determined to stay in the moment and actually enjoy it.

And I did.

Every single minute.

I’ve had my moments in front of audiences (court, teaching, acting, singing). But usually someone else has provided the words or a role to hide behind. It’s very exposing to take on an audience as yourself. And guess what? The only way to do it is to be yourself! What I discovered was how freeing and self-affirming that actually is.

And frankly, if you put your book out there for public scrutiny and enjoyment then you might as well stand beside it.

The local press put the icing on the cake with this review: Daisy Blacklock @GazetteDaisyB on getting published, determination and creating your own luck: … …
Now I just want to do it again!

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