Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What? Speak In Public!

Writers spend a lot of time alone. By necessity. We can't turn out stories, articles and poems while socializing with others. But I hope that writers occasionally venture out of their writing digs into the world beyond to share their knowledge and expertise.

Kansas Authors Club, a state organization, promoted Writers In The Schools for a good many years, but recently the name was changed. It is now Writers In The Community. We've branched out! The organiztion didn't give a set of rules and regulations or a How-To list, but they do encourage writers to be a presence in their local areas.

Teachers love to have writers make an appearance in a classroom. Writers can talk to children about the craft of writing, outline their own writing journey, and perhaps read a sample of their published work. They might work with a class on a group poem or story. How inspiring a visit like that can be for children. The Q and A period could take up half the time allowed. Children are curious and they have an appreciation for others who have been successful.

There are lots of other places for writers to visit and speak. Service clubs that meet weekly are in need of speakers. Church groups are looking for programs. Same with garden clubs, women's organizations, hospital auxilaries, Friends of the Library and many more groups in your town. Gear your talk to a subject the particular group might be interested in but bring your writing world into it, as well.

I've given a program titled Writing Your Family Stories a few times. It's a subject that is of interest to many people. It served as a springboard for some to begin doing something they'd only thought about previously. I've done programs for my PEO chapter that relate to my writing but also a subject they might find of interest. A Mother's Day program, one on grandparents and another on my writing journey.

I was asked to give a program at a church women's group last July. The theme was "Christmas in July" so I created a program called "The Bells of Christmas" using poetry and stories of other writers and then something of my own.

But nobody has ever asked me to go to a school or give a program. I hear you saying that and it's true in many cases. So guess what? It's up to you to let the schools and organizations know that you are available and willing. Once you do a few appearances, the word will spread and you'll be approached with invitations to speak.But you may still have to offer your services. If you have any books published, it's a perfect way to promote them and perhaps sell a few. Sometimes you'll receive an honorarium and other times you are paid in nothing but gratitude. Even so, you've performed a service to your community, promoted yourself as a writer and maybe enjoyed the process.

I may be a writer but I can't stand up in front of others and speak about it. I bet you can. Sure, it can set your nerves on edge, especially the first couple times you do it. Look at it this way. You are the expert in this case. You know more about writing and what you've written than anyone in that room--at least in most cases. You're there to share your knowledge and to help others as well as entertain and inspire your listeners. I find that it's good to keep it low key, a conversational approach and not overly long. The more often you speak or work with a classroom of children, the easier it becomes.

At my next KS Authors district meeting, we're going to discuss Writers In The Community. I'm hoping to hear about some good experiences. Maybe a few laced with humor and probably some that didn't turn out as well as hoped for. My goal is to encourage the writers in that group to venture into the community.

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