Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy April! by Claire Caldwell

                                                                                     



Good morning! Is everyone as excited as me that it’s finally April? March in Toronto wasn’t as bad as it could have been (so sorry, East Coast), but I’m looking forward to some more reliable signs of spring cropping up in the next few weeks.

April is also Poetry Month, so I thought I’d write about the other part of my life—poetry! I published my first collection, Invasive Species, in October, and I’ve been busy promoting it all winter. Although the Canadian poetry world is different from the romance world in many ways, I feel like many of my experiences could apply to any writer working hard to get her book into readers’ hands and connect with her community.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned in the past few months:

Public speaking can be fun
I used to get really nervous before poetry readings, but I love doing them now. Two things have helped me overcome my fear of public speaking: a fierce inner voice telling me to enjoy the experience, and accepting that some nervousness is totally normal and okay (you will notice that neither of these tips is picturing the audience in their underwear. Do not recommend!). You can’t control how the audience will react, but you can definitely control how you feel up on stage. Be confident in the power of your words and the strength of your voice—you wrote this book, after all. You are fabulous!

Here I am reading in Vancouver. Tintin had my back!


Contrary to popular belief, walking into a room full of strangers, alone, will not cause you to spontaneously combust

I still sometimes have trouble believing this, but so far I've come away from this kind of situation relatively unscathed. Whether you’re at a conference, book signing or public reading, it helps to remember you automatically have something in common with every person in the room. And if you’re feeling shy or overwhelmed, there’s a good chance other people are, too.  Inserting yourself into a group can be intimidating, but take a look around—there’s probably someone else who seems a little tentative or uncertain, so why not introduce yourself? It might be awkward at first, but the relief of not having to stand in a corner playing Candy Crush while pretending to send Important Texts will far outweigh it. Be friendly and genuine, and if someone acts rude or disinterested, that’s their problem.  

Social media is your friend (and it can bring your friends to you)

I’ve tagged old high school and camp friends in Facebook posts promoting readings in their cities, and I’ve gotten really lovely responses, even if not everyone I reached out to could make it. It’s a great way to get a familiar face or two in the crowd, and it's an excuse to reconnect with old pals. Also, if you find yourself at an event alone, searching the hashtag (or event name/other keywords) on Twitter can connect you with people in the room and help you put names to faces.

If all else fails, chat up your seatmate on the plane/train/bus

I sold two books on a plane recently, which was possibly one of the most surprising and delightful things that’s ever happened to me. Carry a few extra copies of your book around—you  never know, the person sitting next to you might be out of reading material, need a last-minute gift for her niece or just find it incredibly cool that she got to meet a real, live author.

Self-promotion and public events aren’t always a cakewalk, but I’ve found that the hard work has been rewarding in ways I never expected. So as conference and festival season ramps up, I hope these tips come in handy for any Heartwarming authors putting themselves out there with their books.

Before I wrap up, I just wanted to give a shout-out to our wonderful April lineup: Karen Rock’s Raising the Stakes, Lynn Patrick’s The Long Road Home, Cynthia Reese’s Man of His Word and  Carol Ross’s A Case for Forgiveness. I know what’s on my TBR pile for the long weekend!

Hope the Easter Bunny spoils you all,

Claire 

22 comments:

  1. A very amusing post. I particularly liked where you eliminated picturing the audience in their underwear. I have never understood how that could make a speaker confident.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree, Marion! It also seems like it'd take way more concentration than I have to spare when I'm trying to perform.

      Delete
  2. I don't think the audience in their underwear suggestion is supposed to make for confidence...maybe make the speaker laugh and if you laugh, hopefully you will relax. :-)
    Great post, Claire.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Patricia! Definitely agree that laughing/smiling makes a huge difference in terms of relaxation and confidence.

      Delete
  3. Claire, thanks for the useful, helpful hints. I really have a hard time getting up in front of an audience. I seem to be getting worse as time goes on. I never used to have the problem. But it's like my throat gets scratchy and I'm sure I'll pass out. I bought a book on conquering anxiety, and it really wasn't very helpful. I look out over the audience who have notepads out and I panic, thinking my heavens, they expect me to know something. Congratulations on your book and I'm so glad you're enjoying the whole process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry to hear that, Roz! I can totally relate to the panicky feeling. Sometimes it helps me to think, "what's the worst that could happen?" Even if I disappoint someone in the audience or they don't particularly like my reading, they'll probably keep it to themselves. And I truly believe that if you feel good about the work you're presenting, that'll rub off on the audience. I hope it gets a little easier for you!

      Delete
  4. Claire, these are great tips! I especially like the social media ones--I've never thought of searching the hashtag before or at an event. Congratulations on the release of your book! I would love to come to a reading! Any chance you'll be making any appearances here in the Pacific Northwest?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading, Carol! No plans to head to the Pacific Northwest anytime soon, but who knows what might come up in the future. I'll be sure to spread the word if I do end up out there. :)

      Delete
  5. The multi-talented Claire can now be on the marketing team. Great tips!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Claire! If you come to the Pacific Northwest, I'm only an hour away from Carol and I want to meet her anyway! Congratulations on 'Invasive Species.' and your knowledge on how to deal with an audience. Generally, I don't have a shy bone in my body, but I do feel the pressure if I'm talking in front of a group who have paid to be there, hoping they'll at least get their money's worth. I think honestly and friendliness connects a speaker to an audience. Abandon formality and just be you. (I was going to ask if that was an old Gasoline Alley character cutout behind you. (a comic strip from the dark ages) Don't know Tintin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will definitely let you and Carol know if I'm ever in your area! I've never been to that part of the States and would love to visit, though I was recently on the West Coast of Canada and I'm not sure when I'll get out that way again. But you never know when opportunities will present themselves!

      I totally agree with you about being friendly and casual onstage--if nothing else, it'll put YOU more at ease.

      Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  7. Wow! I am so proud and impressed! Good for you for getting out there and conquering any fears you had. Your tips are great, of course I always listen to your advice - I know how good it is ;)
    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great post, and add me to the list of ones who never quite got how picturing people in the underwear was supposed to help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've always thought it was a little creepy, and too close for comfort to those nightmares where you show up naked to an important event. ;)

      Delete
  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on public speaking, Claire! As a homeschooler, there were a lot of requirements during my high school career to perform public speaking as part of the curriculum. Though I loathed it at first, it was so good for me - I have no fear of speaking in front of people now. Great thoughts here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's all about practice and repetition, isn't it? The more you do it, the less terrifying it becomes. Though I would've thought one of the benefits of homeschooling was NOT having to do much public speaking, lol :)

      Delete
  10. Huge congrats to you on Invasive Species, Claire! I've loved poetry since childhood and feel honored to have it on my shelf. You're incredibly talented and I've been recommending it to anyone I know who loves poetry too.

    And excellent tips on public speaking! I'm shy and it takes extra effort not to be the girl pretending to have mega important emails on my phone lol. I've presented a thesis, as well as given a lecture, to an auditorium full of professionals and boy was I nervous. However, one of my professors gave me similar advice to yours...to remember that I was an expert on my topic, to enjoy the moment and let my passion for the topic come through...and if anyone asked a question I didn't know the answer to to just be honest and say I don't know but I'd be happy to find out for you. That advice stuck with me. So anyone reading this...know that Claire's tips really work!

    Best wishes for success to you and to all the April authors!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great advise, Claire! Thanks for sharing. (My husband sells a lot of books on planes for me! We carry bookmarks.)

    Also, congratulations on the well-deserved recognition you are getting for Invasive Species.

    Happy Easter!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Congratulations, Claire. Love all your tips. I don't like public speaking, but at a Romantic Times event once, right before I was to speak, a woman in the front row said, "You know, you have to sing and dance." That really broke the ice and I was fine after that. Humor really helps.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Claire,
    As you know, I loved "Invasive Species". You are so talented and I wish you incredible success with it. I, too, have been recommending it to friends. Your tips on public speaking were great fun and obviously, everyone here enjoyed them. Great luck to you with the next book of poetry. I'll be the first to order a copy!!

    ReplyDelete