Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Learning Curve - by Brenda Chapman

Very few writers are great at absolutely everything from the outset. How did you respond to the opening hand you were dealt? Do you play to your strengths and avoid the rest. If you try to improve, how?

Quite early on in my life’s journey, I realized that I would never make my living in the sciences or as an auto mechanic. My passion had to do with the poetry of language, not the precision of numbers or the abstractions of physics. From the get go, reading and writing were strengths that I naturally pursued and continue to work on.

Yet, with the publication of my first book in 2004, I quickly understood that being able to write a book is not the same as being able to market a book. To be successful, authors need to jump into the selling game and this can be a steep learning curve. Coming from a generation when we were told not to blow our own horns, standing in a bookstore telling strangers why they should buy my book, was way out of my comfort zone. Even giving a talk to a roomful of strangers took time to feel right, that I had something useful to say that wouldn’t bore a crowd.

Launching Bleeding Darkness at The Cross Pub

This year, I swallowed all my insecurities and worked with my Dundurn publicist to work on a media pitch. I was fortunate to get some uptake and appeared on radio and television several times. I look at each engagement as a chance to learn — to figure out what worked and where I could improve, not much different than working on a writing career really. One key discovery that I learned from media playbacks is that pausing to think when I’m giving an answer seem interminable to me, but in reality isn’t that long at all. This has helped me with pacing and not feeling that I have to fill every second of air time. With each interview, I learned to become more relaxed and to enjoy my time in front of the camera or mic. Maybe, throw out a joke or two. After all, being asked to more interviews is never a given and some day I’ll look back on this time and will think how lucky I was to have these experiences — heck, I think that now!

On Daytime Ottawa with host Dylan Black
Guest on 1310 News Radio

As for standing in front of a crowded room to give a presentation, I’ve accepted almost every invitation and feel that practice is the key to turning public speaking into a strength. Practice helps to conquer nerves. Other tips learned from speaking engagements include finding out in advance exactly what the group would like me to focus on, the time allotment, the set up of the room and the size of the audience. All of this knowledge beforehand helps with nerves and aids in giving a better presentation. Preparation, as in anything, is key, but I’ve also learned to be ready to adapt to curve balls and to adjust my presentation as necessary on the spur of the moment.

As has been said many times before, going outside the safety of your comfort zone is the only way to grow. It might also just help to sell a few books!

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Twitter: brendaAchapman

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