Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hello, My Name is Colleen Wright and I Am a...

freelance writer. Yes, it's true. I am not 'unemployed' or 'taking a break' or 'figuring out what I really want to do', even though at self-conscious times I've been known to give that impression.

It's hard to believe that a mere three weeks ago while sitting with eight Literacy Volunteers, I couldn't bring myself to say that I was a full-time writer. Part of me still didn't believe it myself. But a lot has happened since then. I've gotten paid for some articles, from 4 cents to a hundred big ones. I've edited and customized layout for a newsletter. I've been in touch with some writing friends and have received offers of help from people I barely know. And last night, at the National Speakers Association (NSA) meeting my writer friend Anne talked me into attending, I stood before 50 professional public speakers and not only told them that I'm a freelance writer, but that I'm planning to write my second book about it. And I only felt a flicker of embarrassment at my audacity (me, telling other people how to break into this business!).

I've wanted to learn more about public speaking for years, more for personal than professional reasons. But the professional reasons have kicked in these past few weeks, and for good reason. Did you know that before they take an author on, most publishers find out if the author's done any public speaking? I didn't either. It's harsh, and scary, and there isn't much worse news that a shy person can get. But it makes sense. I mean, who's going to put a shaking, sweating ball of fear on stage with Oprah, or even the local news, for that matter? If a publisher buys my book, they're going to expect me to go out and do readings, and all other types of promotional events that stick me in front of groups of people and even - god help me - podiums.

Experts in the field, which is what these publications want, can prove credibility by speaking on the subject. And vice versa: it's natural to share your books or blogs or articles at speaking venues where you're talking about the topic. But enough about marketing.

The simple truth is, once I learn how to do this writing gig successfully, I want to share it with other people and motivate them to stick with it. I can't do that too easily if I pray for a sudden earthquake at the first sight of a podium (which is way too close to the truth..although usually it's a building collapse). So now I've added one more thing to my writing career wish list: public speaking courses.

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