You know that old saying, "You've got to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince?" I'm applying it today ... to my speaking career. I think it's all about paying your dues, finding your place in the scheme of a speaker's world, balancing your platform-building with your writing. It's been quite an eye-opener for me this year. And a lot of hard, hard work.
I've basically accepted every invitation that has come my way, with exception of a completely booked day. I have not turned down even ONE organization that has called and asked me to speak at their event. Most, or the majority, have been truly pleasant, rewarding, fulfilling, and enlightening experiences. All over the South. Some more than others. Most folks I've met, I would love to see again and again. Warm and wonderful. Then there are some, you learn lessons that everything that glitters ... ain't gold.
I try to utilize my time well ... one thing that has worked for me is the open mic night where you can perform and get instant reaction to your readings. It's a working event for me and I enjoy hearing what others are writing, as well. Mike and I drove all the way to Charlotte this past Monday to what we thought would be an open mic. At least it was advertised that way. We were the first to arrive at the Joseph Beth Bookstore in a swanky part of town. The room where the event was to be held was dark. So we sat and drank coffee until somebody else arrived. Soon the room was full of aspiring writers. I love to talk to writers and encourage them in any way I can, because they in turn, encourage me. But this wasn't possible, as the room wasn't set up and everybody scrambled just to put their chairs in some kind of order for the evening. At first, everybody got an opportunity to introduce themselves and the type of writing they do ... I was anxious to hear some of them read.
Then I realized, that wasn't going to happen. A NC children's book agent was there. I knew she was going to be there, but I thought she came to hear everybody else read and talk to authors before, during a break, and afterward. Instead, she and her husband talked to the group the entire time. Interesting stuff, but not what I came to hear. I wish it would've been stated there will be no readings tonight. There was no structure, no order and they prided themselves on that. They need to go to the Winston-Salem Writer's Night Out and watch Jennifer and Al in action. There has to be structure and order. Otherwise, it doesn't work. Charlotte, a good hour and half away, was a waste of my time.
Wednesday night, on the other hand, was fabulous. I was asked to teach a class on VOICE and Point of View. Two of my favorite subjects. I found out a few weeks ago that Carol Kenny, another fabulous writer friend of mine, would be on this panel with me. The room at the Winston-Salem library was full of hungry writers, the response was great. Winston-Salem Writers is an extremely active group that supports each other like no other writer group I've been involved in. And as you know, I've been part of many. Carol and I were able to get our "points of view" across, I believe. A great night for writing and speaking.
Yesterday afternoon, I spent lunch with my Divas. The Shundi Divas. Five female writing friends ... totally different ages and backgrounds ... that have come together and found an unbelievable energy together. It's almost a palpable, tangible thing. The sparks that ignite the room when we're in it! Every six weeks. A have-to-be-there event.
My point is ... I'm learning what to avoid and what to cultivate. I'm going to be consulting with a few professionals in the speaking business and take my speaking to a higher level in the very near future. I know it's part of who I am and what I'm supposed to do. The writing and speaking, I've found, go hand in hand for me ... and essentially ... I'm self-taught. In just about every area of my life. Nobody taught Mahalia Jackson, Barbara Streisand, or Diana Ross how to sing. Sure, they may have taken a few voice lessons, but they had the innate talent to begin with. They knew it. They ran with it. They paid their dues. I can only hope that the last several years of working and sitting in one class and conference after another has been preparation for where I'm heading.
Just where that is ... only God knows. What I know is ... I've been kissing some frogs along the way.
Blessings to you and yours.