I went to my first author signing yesterday. I’d known about it (been contacted) several weeks before the actual event. I ordered my books to bring, bought a new pen and loaded up my business cards. Two days before I was to go, I got an email from the event coordinator that each author was to give a 5 minute presentation. It should cover an introduction of myself, the book, the inspiration for it and then a reading. I typed up a page and gave it a try. I was at about the 5 minute mark but I had a lot of pauses trying to gather my thoughts. I figured I’d be fine. It was 5 minutes, not an hour long dissertation. I had my partner review my write-up when she got home. She made a couple tiny changes but they were so small that I thought it was almost knit picking. I wasn’t going to read the paper, I just needed some guidelines.
By Saturday, I was beginning to obsess over the talk. I used to be an instructor and have had many occasions to stand in front of a crowd and speak. It’s never really bothered me before. But it had been a long time since I’d done it. I knew I’d be fine, however. We had some errands to run and every so often as we did this or that, I’d have this wave of panic that would almost make me dizzy, give me a tingly feeling in my stomach. I knew it was just nerves. I practiced the speech on and off throughout the day, timing myself. I’d gotten it down to 4 minutes allowing a minute to read a paragraph. Then I had to pick out the paragraph. I flipped, flipped, flipped through the book. I knew I wanted to read about my Grandma. It was one of the parts that I could read without falling apart or be in fear of reading something too overly personal, in person, but that many could still relate to. I found just the paragraph and finally did the complete walk-through. I finally got to the point narrowing down my speech to bullet points followed by the reading. By Saturday evening, we decided to see a movie which was the best thing to get my mind off of such things that seem to camp out there.
Sunday, the morning of the Author Faire, I woke up to my mind reciting “Hi, my name is Michelle Stoner…”, the beginning of my speech running its’ course. I got up and fixed myself some coffee. The pains in my stomach were getting worse. There was no more of the tingly feeling. It was sharp pains. I had coffee and when Chris got up, I fixed us breakfast. I was watching some stupid movie I’d recorded. It wasn’t working to get my mind off of the day. After breakfast, well, let me just say that being nervous is a great system emptying tool. But things finally calmed down, or more so, I just ignored it so that I could get ready.
I had to arrive at 1:00 but figured I could get there at 12:30 so that I could setup my books. I knew that the first person would be presenting at 1:00 so it only made sense to get there a few minutes early. Maybe I’d be able to meet some of the other authors at the faire. Nope. The place didn’t open until 1:00. It just didn’t seem right to me. I lugged the box of books over to a cafe and sat waiting for the doors to open. When the doors open, I filed in along with many, many other people, all trying to get onto elevators and find their way to wherever they needed to go. I found my name tag at one of the tables and began to setup my books. I spread out my business cards (which were the most awesome things – no one else had them and several people took them so they remembered to download e-copies of the book) and waited. I had one woman come over and take a card saying that she couldn’t wait for my presentation.
Then I sat and waited. The presentations went in alpha order with 20 other authors. It was neat to see the other authors, hear their experiences, all of them proud of their works. I was perfectly fine until two people before me. I felt my heart rate increasing by the minute. When the guys next to me went, I could see my shirt moving from my heart pounding in my chest. Chris, who had been seated in the audience the whole time, looked over at me and mouthed the words “breathe” to which I took a deep breath and eased it out. I took another swallow of water and hoped that the fact that I had to pee so bad wouldn’t bite me in the ass. I’d wanted to go but I couldn’t bring myself to move. I’d downed almost an entire bottle of water so I really had to go. The audience was clapping so I got up and made my way from behind the table. I was introduced but the emcee didn’t see that I’d gotten up already so she called my name again. I was rushing up but I’m short so she didn’t see me and called once again. I raised my hand up to which everyone laughed. I did my speech. It was completely out of order of what I’d planned but I think it still flowed ok. I only paused once to catch my thoughts. I didn’t realize until much later that there was a clock on the wall but I didn’t get the warning so I think I was within the limits. Some people had gone on for 15-20 minutes and were practically dragged off so I know I did fine time wise. I saw Chris staring at the floor the whole time which I was thankful for. While I’d been practicing at home, I told her I couldn’t concentrate if she looked at me. I felt bad that she was staring at the floor but it was really for the best. I made a conscious effort to look around and just before I started to read, I was introducing my book and realized that most people were leaning forward and many had their mouths hanging open. I think I had them. They were engaged. I smiled and started reading. It was short, just a paragraph but it was silent in the room as I did. When I stopped. I looked up and everyone was in the exact same position. No one had moved. I smiled and said “thank you”. I left the podium to a round of applause. I did it.
The event was from 1-5. The presentations went until 3:30 or so. There was an audience that sat but several left before the end. We had not quite a half an hour to meet with those that did stay for the whole thing and then we broke into groups to share ideas and things that worked or didn’t work for us. But everyone had left so it was only authors talking with authors, which was ok but it meant that I didn’t sell one hard copy book. I signed my mom’s book and it was my first signed book. I’m hopeful that I’ll get a couple e-book sales but even though I didn’t sell any, I was happy that I made it through the day. I did it. I showed up, I did a speech and I met some really nice people. I survived.