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Friday, March 23, 2012

A Night at the Salon...

September 29, 2011, Deb Marlowe, Claudia Dain, and both halves of Lydia Dare opened the preverbal doors to Lady Jane’s Salon Raleigh-Durham (a satellite of the original in NYC) in the quaint patio room of a local Irish Pub. From that debut salon until now, Lady Jane’s Salon RDU has advertised itself with the slogan - “Good Company, Great Books, and a Worthy Cause.” (The worthy cause in our case is Heather McCollum’s Shout Against the Whisper campaign, which supports Ovarian Cancer research.)

Sometimes there is truth in advertising. *I* have not missed a salon, nor do I ever plan to do so. I have heard amazing authors read from their work, and I have enjoyed the camaraderie of the other attendees month after month. (And I’m really very partial to the pub’s Chicken Cordon Bleu. Yes, it’s an Irish pub with French chicken. But it tastes so good, I’m not complaining.)

I’ve heard talented authors such as Sabrina Jeffries, Virginia Kantra, Jenna Black, Claudia Dain, and our own Lady Scribes lady – Catherine Gayle (all the way from Texas) just to name a few read at our satellite salon.

But last month…

Last month it was my turn. Well… mine, Mari Freeman’s and Kianna Alexander’s turn. And I was a little nervous.

Ok, more than a little nervous.

Despite my reputation, I’m fairly introverted and never did all that well in public speaking back in school all those many, many (ok, more many’s than I’d like to admit) years ago. PLUS everyone who’s ever heard me read always says, “Ava, you need to slow down a little.”

Slow down?

But I’ve got a rhythm going. If I slow down, I’ll stumble over my own words. And the last thing I want to do is fumble something I wrote and come off looking like an idiot in front of a group of people. Yikes! Besides, my characters talk and think fast. That’s the cadence they have. It just is.

Slow down!

Back in January, Catherine Gayle, Erin Knightley and Olivia Kelly came back to my house after that month’s salon and let me practice my selection for February on them. You know what they said…? Each one of them…? That’s right. You guessed it… “Ava, you need to slow down a little.”

My two new least favorite words… Slow dow—Wait that’s not true. My two least favorite words are and always will be my ex-husband’s name. But “slow down” is now a close second. Perhaps if I could just find a way to make everyone else hear faster...

But I digress.

Over the next month, I timed myself. I recorded myself (Erin Knightley’s suggestion). And I read it over and over and over to myself, to a couple of friends who were willing guinea pigs and even to my teenage son when he was feeling particularly charitable one evening. I had it down perfectly. 14:48 minutes. I didn’t go too fast. I didn’t go too slow. My practice had all been worth it! I was going to be amazing!!

But then the night was upon us. Dinner was over. The first reader had finished and it was my turn. Yes, I gulped. Then I took my spot on a tall chair, and silently chanted in my head, “Slow down, Ava. Slow down, Ava.”

And then proceeded to read a little too fast.

I’m not auctioneer-fast or anything, but it was a little quick. Still, I think people could hear me well enough. At least they all told me they could.

I did promise a friend who couldn’t be there that night that I’d have my reading recorded, and I did. The recording is a little blurry, but if you want a glimpse of what Lady Jane’s Salon Raleigh Durham is like (with an author who should maybe slow down just a little)...

...you can click here to see me read from my latest novella By Any Other Name, which is part of THE BETTING SEASON anthology with fellow Lady Scribes ladies – Catherine Gayle, Jerrica Knight-Catania, and Jane Charles. (I tried to imbed the YouTube video but after 7 straight hours of "uploading," I wasn't confident it would ever work and thought the link was a better option.)

All in all, I had a wonderful time, even in that tall chair in front of everyone. And I did enjoy reading from my novella. BUT, I think I’ll have even more fun listening to Lady Scribes lady Deb Marlowe read from her latest release - TALL, DARK & DISREPUTABLE; Aimee Laine read from HIDE AND SEEK; and Maya Rodale (one the original Lady Jane's Salon founding members) read from her new release - THE TATTOOED DUKE next week at the March Salon. If you’re in the RDU area, you should come hear them too. I'm sure they'll all be amazing!

Have you ever had to speak or read in front of a big crowd? Do you get nervous? Or are you cool as cucumber? Tell me all of your public speaking stories (the good and the bad) and I promise I won’t tell you to slow down. But most importantly, do you have any suggestions of how I can make others hear faster...?

54 comments:

  1. Ava- that was fun to read. Even as an extrovert I still have problem speaking or reading in front of a crowd. I usually have the same problem and need to slow down. I try to pause and breath, but that doesn't always work. Nervous would be an understatement. While I talk my body moves. I tend to talk a lot with my hands. So, when I get nervous I tend to focus on my hands and trying to keep them still. I only wish I could be cool as a cucumber.
    I remember a time I was in a group speaking class we had to debate on if we were for or against the death penalty. So, I decided to be on the side of giving life in prison. I was trying to argue the point that it cost the state more money to keep them on Death Row. Well, it didn't go well. I still have issues with the Death Penalty. However, I still hate speaking in front of a group.
    I have no problem speaking with my friends and my arms going this way and that way.
    Whoever, heard of a shy extrovert. I'll work on trying to find a way for people to hear faster.

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    1. Melody - Thanks for looking into that whole hearing faster thing. If we could bottle that, I think we'd make a fortune. ;) I used to speak with my hands too. It just occurred to me that somewhere along the way, I've stopped and don't remember where or why? Hmm...

      Anyway, your story made me flashback to my high school speaking classes. I think I might crawl back under my covers and hide. LOL.

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  2. I wish there was a big city closer to me. I would love to be part of a Lady Jane's Salon. I think Chicago is the closest with a salon, but it's 5 hours away. :(

    I don't mind public speaking. I get nervous, but it's exhilarating. Reading from my book, however, would be very hard. It feels so personal.

    Completely unrelated, but my least favorite phrase is "think outside the box". Ugh! I wish management would think outside the box and come up with a different phrase. lol

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    1. Samantha ~ You know the one I don't like...? "Action item." I want people to stop giving me action items. I have enough items, thank you.

      5 hours isn't so far away. Catherine flew from Dallas. ;) You should look at the Chicago LJS or even fly to RDU. :)

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  3. I think you did great! MUCH slower than when you read for practice, lol!
    My first public speaking engagement was when I made a commencement speech at my middle school graduation. I can't remember why I was picked- it wasn't because of my average grades, haha! Anyway, it was nerve-wracking, especially because I pretty much wrote the five minute speech by myself. Five minutes can feel like eternity!
    When I read at Lady Jane's RDU, in November, I thought I was going to throw up. I was SO nervous. I was reading from my first and only published work, the novella from Summons from His Grace, and I was doing it in front of so many people I looked up to and loved as writers. And my parents! Plus, the best and worst part of it was that I was reading that night with the talented Katharine Ashe, and the sublime Claudia Dian.
    The first few sentences were pretty shaky, I was focusing so hard on the page in front of me! But, then suddenly I got into the groove and it seems to go smoothly. Still, it's not something I look forward to doing again in front of people who don't know and love me, haha!

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    1. I thought you did great, Olivia! And I do have that video on youtube *evil laugh*

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    2. Olivia ~ I'm betting you were picked for your middle school commencement because of your bubbly personality! They thought "Olivia will rock!"

      And you did so well when you read at Lady Jane's RDU. Never say never. You might have to read there again. ;)

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    3. You were awesome! And everybody there did love you--after, if not before!

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  4. Ava - I hate I missed your reading this time. I love your accent and passion you put into your characters. As far as public speaking goes, I am calm and confident in a room full of strangers. However, I get a little anxious in front of individuals that I know, and for some odd reason, feel like I have to impress. Despite the nerves, if you're passionate about what you are reading or speaking about, an audience will love you!

    Wishing you continued success!

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    1. Interesting that you don't mind strangers but get nervous with people you know. That would never have occurred to me. Now I'll be doubly nervous next time. ;)

      And thanks for the sweet words about my reading! I didn't even realize I used an accent? I am now completely blushing. I know I have an accent in my head when I'm reading English characters, but I had no idea it came out that way. LOL!

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    2. You do read with a slight accent. It isn't strong, but it isn't your natural speaking voice, either. :)

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    3. Fabulous. I'll be scarlet the rest of the day. :)

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  5. I always thought I would be good at public speaking - after all, I'm a people person, so how hard could it be? Well, two months ago I had to make a technical presentation on the effect of impervious surfaces on the water quality of my lake community (that's what I get for being the only person with a science degree in the neighborhood!). I practiced and practiced and practiced. Like Ava said, I recorded myself, then recited the presentation while listening to the recording, sort of like saying the Pledge of Allegiance with the class.

    It was all good . . . until the moment I stepped up to the microphone and had to face a room full of strangers, half of whom were staring daggers at me since my report could potentially limit them from concreting over their entire property (the nerve of me!). I actually started to shake, and heaven knows how fast I roared through the thing. I have never been so happy to be done with something in my life! When I went to my hubby afterwards, looking for a little support, I asked him how I did.
    "Fine. I could tell you were nervous."
    Well, what *glowing* praise. We then had a very nice discussion where I explained to him that it was okay to lie and make me feel better in these circumstances, lol.

    Lord help me in June when it's my turn to read at Lady Jane's RDU!

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    1. Erin ~ I am sure that you are going to do awesome in June! Did your hubby "get" the whole "It's ok to lie and make me feel better" idea after your discussion? LOL! I'm just imagining a blank look on his face.

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    2. You will do GREAT in June! And I can't wait. :)

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  6. You did beautifully, Ava! And you really whetted everyone's appetite for the The Betting Season. Is it out yet? Huh? Huh?

    I'm a little nervous about my own turn next week! It's much easier to play hostess!

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    1. Deb ~ Oh, you're so sweet. I am so excited to hear you read next week! Have you read aloud or recorded yourself? If you need help slowing down, I don't think I can help you. ;)

      And THE BETTING SEASON will be available today! *whew* It feels like I've been waiting for that forever and a day! :)

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    2. Today??? It's going to be out today??? Yippee!!!!

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    3. You'll be the first to know!

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  7. I am right there with you, Ava! I hate doing presentations, or reading aloud, or any kind of public performance. Kudos to you for overcoming your fear--and sharing a night of camaraderie with friends. :) Wish I could have been there!

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    1. Lily ~ Thanks! I wish you were there too. That would have been so much fun! As soon as I was done reading, my heart rate went back to "normal".

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  8. Maybe one day I will live closer that I might attend. However, that will be 6yrs away from now. Or if we ever visit Randy's aunt in DC I might swing to go down to there.

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    1. Melody ~ LJS satellites are popping up different places. Denver has one and so does Chicago. So maybe there'll be one closer to you someday soon. And if not, we're happy to have you come see ours. :)

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    2. I love that LJS continues to grow and add new satellites. It's such a fantastic idea. I wish there was one in every area that has a concentration of romance writers.

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  9. Okay, first off, I can commiserate with you on the chicken cordon blue. It's fantastic there. Thanks for suggesting it to me, because I certainly did not regret my choice.

    Secondly, I do believe that the reaction you got from me, Erin, and Olivia that night was not: Ava, you need to slow down a little bit; but was more: Ava, none of us understood a word after the very first one, so stop trying to be the Micro Machines commercial guy.

    But thirdly, I am in LOVE with Lady Jane's Salon after my visit to read at the RDU satellite. It was so much fun, and is such a great celebration of romance. Thanks to you and the other directors for inviting me. :)

    Not too very many years ago, if I had to speak in front of more than about two people, I shook visibly and cried, and you could barely hear me over my sobs. I got over the shaking and crying thing after telling my own personal story multiple times to a group of people going through a similar situation. My public speaking course (which I DREADED to an insane degree) helped me to learn to project and work on timing, etc. It turned out to be a really fun class, but I'm still thankful I did it as an express course--three full weekends in a row, and then we were done.

    I'd still prefer not to speak in front of crowds though, because I am a serious introvert. A couple of shots right before I go on helps. Or, if I'm sick as a dog like I was when I read at Lady Jane's RDU, a hefty dose of some prescription-strength cough syrup. LOL.

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    1. Catherine ~ Cough syrup! LOL. What a novel idea. ;)

      And perhaps "Ava, you need to slow down a little," sounds better and less of an attack on my fragile ego than "Ava, none of understood a word after the very first one, so stop trying to be the Micro Machines commercial guy." LMAO!

      **Isn't that Chicken Cordon Bleu good?!?!?

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  10. In my job, doing presentations in front of crowds - anywhere from 2 people to 50 people is not all that uncommon. Sometimes, I'm "cool as a cucumber" and other times I am super nervous. I usually can't tell until right before which side of my presentation personality is going to come out. I can say for sure that my "dry runs" or practice presentations are always harder and more nerve racking than the real thing. I find that holding something in my hands (usually a pen) helps calm my nerves and usually a quick joke sets me at ease. Still, there have been times when I've completely bombed and that just happens! I often get told that I am speaking too fast too. So, if someone finds the key to letting others listen faster, I would love to learn that technique for my audiences!!!

    And, as others have said, I understood you perfectly well at Lady Jane's and I loved the story. I need to find out what happens next to our heroine!

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    1. Michelle ~ You never know which side of your presentation personality will come out? I think that would make me a nervous wreck! Good for you for speaking all the time. I'm very impressed!

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  11. I've had to read in front of people for years. And by people I mean elementary school students--mostly 5 year olds. I really enjoy reading to kids. I get to make the goofiest voices and facial expression ever and they totally appreciate and can really get into it with you.

    BUT Every flippin' time I read my class The Giving Tree, I would choke up. Seriously, I'd have to stop near the end and pretend to need a drink of water.

    I think you did a great job reading, Ava! I know I enjoyed it and everyone else did as well. I hope that if I ever get the chance to read at Lady J's that I don't pass out, and that I look (and sound!) as confident as all of you ladies have.

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    1. Marquita ~ When my son was younger I was reading something to him and got so choked up. I couldn't stop crying. He got annoyed with me, took the book from my hands and read the last bit himself. Then he closed the book and looked at me like I was an idiot.

      But it was sad!!!

      If you ever read at LJS RDU, I'm sure you'll be wonderful. Just imagine everyone as kindergartners. ;)

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  12. I have never had to give presentations in front of large crowds before, but I have had to do numerous presentations for various classes when I was in high school and college and hated every single minute of it. I get so nervous, and I think I'm also one of those who has a tendency to talk fast. If there is a Q&A at the end, that's even worse because I have no idea what questions are going to be asked, and if I'm going to know the answer.

    The cake though has to be when I had to do mock oral arguments during my first year of law school. The "judges" comprised of my research and writing professor as well as 2 volunteer alumi. The feedback I got was that I knew the material, but I was obviously nervous and a little flustered. One of the volunteers actually told me. "Try to relax. Remember, no one has ever died from doing this. It's ok."

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    1. Oh, Lisa! Nothing is worse than someone telling you to try and relax. If I could relax, I'd be relaxed. TRYING is just going to make me more anxious!!!

      I can see where Q&As would be a little scary. If someone develops the "hearing faster" elixir for crowds, I'll be sure to pass the information on to you. :)

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  13. Ava,
    I spent the last year traveling and teaching healthcare professionals. Being an introvert myself it was really hard especially at first. I had an Agenda that everyone could read and so my timing had to be on schedule and I had to look confident and polished.
    Try pretending that you are reading to children to slow yourself down.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion. :) I think I'm used to my child who always wants me to finish up whatever it is I'm saying. LOL.

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  14. You were fantastic, Ava!!!

    So, here's my thing…I started performing at the ripe age of 2, and did so professionally until the age of 29. Give me a role, and I'll sing/act/even dance it with little to no nerves whatsoever…

    Put me up in front of a room full of my peers to do "public speaking" and FORGET IT! I break out in hives, I get dry mouth, the shakes and, unlike you, I talk WAY too fast! That was SO not fast, compared to me…trust me!

    I can't explain it. I wish I could. It's frustrating not understanding why I can do one and not the other!!! But there it is. You should be totally proud of your reading -- at least you didn't have hives!!! LOL!

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    1. Thanks, Jerrica! But seriously... I could never sing, dance, act, etc. Waaay too shy for that. :) I don't even like to be in the front of any class. I much prefer to sit in the back and quietly watch everything else going on. :)

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  15. Ava! I would love to go to RDU and hopefully soon I may be able to get up that way. I think it would be so much fun but no, I could never read in front of anybody, much less a room full of people. I would be a mess if I had to read in front of anyone, other than my wonderful hubby who listens to all my chapters lol. But he doesn't count.

    I really admire those of you who are able to do that. I wish I could be more outgoing but I really believe I am socially challenged. I say all the wrong things, all the time lol. I don't mean to, I just don't do well in a social setting. But I'd love to go listen to everyone read. It would be so much fun. Perhaps soon. PS I thought you did really well in the video and I am so glad you had it recorded! And good luck to Deb when it's finally her turn! I know she'll do well though1

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    1. Suzie ~ I think your wonderful hubby most certainly counts! LOL.

      If you ever want to take the train down here and go to an LJS, just let me know. :)

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    2. LOL don't tell him that, he's already got a big ego! Will do!

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    3. LMAO. Poor hubby. First he doesn't count and now he has a big ego. ;)

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  16. Ava,

    I detest public speaking. Once in my first year of law school, I answered a question the professor asked me without being able to hear myself because my heart was roaring in my ears. I have found that breathing deeply and repeatedly telling myself it is no big deal really does help me!

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    1. Julie ~ How did I not know you'd gone to law school? How long have I known you? LOL!

      I am so picturing that scene like it was a movie. You're talking but you can't even hear yourself. I'd be afraid of what I said. ;)

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    2. I didn't know you'd gone to law school either. Goodness, what haven't you done?

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    3. Thank heavens! I was afraid I was the only one who didn't know. (You know how non-observant I am.) *whew* I feel sooo much better now. ;)

      Still - what else are you keeping secret, Julie?

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    4. Rub it in, Samantha. ;) LOL!

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  17. I always say the wrong thing when I am speaking in public! I get to flustered and it always comes out jumbled! At least you can say you did it!

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  18. I get too flustered! I guess I should have previewed before I publish next time. See I'm even on a computer and it doesn't come out right

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    1. Don't worry, Jill. If you want to see some funny typos, you should check out Marquita's last blog. HIL-AR-I-OUS! They happen to all of us. :)

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  19. How I wish that I lived in Virginia and could have been at Lady Jane's Salon to met and hear Deb Marlowe, Claudia Dain, and both halves of Lydia Dare welcoming all their admirers!

    I was a Tupperware Manager for 15 years and I still remember when my Director asked me to give a presentation at a Regional Meeting. Right before I was to begin she asked me where my notes were and wasn't happy when I told her I didn't have any. To put it mildly she was a "happy trooper"! All I did was tell everyone how I used the products at home with my own family.

    When I was done I saw her heading toward me and tried to "escape" but was stopped by one of the representatives from the Home Office who asked me if I was planning on attending the National Convention that year. Imagine my surprise when she asked me to give a presentation there!

    Whenever I gave a presentation I always felt if you spoke from the heart and your own experiences you couldn't go wrong!

    PS: My sons were never pleased when I would include situations of when they had used Tupperware (not for containing food)in my talks - they were unusual to say the least!

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    1. Jeanne ~ I think that's great advice about speaking from your heart.

      But you have piqued my interest with what your sons used your Tupperware for...

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  20. yes to that question. Used to be a singer in a bad, well i am super extra nervous but i always takes deep breath, crossed my fingers and prays before I start. Fortunately almost every of my performances went quite smoothly, aretha zhen

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    1. I'm so glad that most of your performances went smoothly! That's great to hear. :)

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