Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Survived Main Speech / A Book Cover Quest . . .

The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid. ~Claudia Lady Bird Johnson

My TOPIC SPEECH is over, and I'm GLAD! How can we, intelligent mature adults, be so daunted by a 5-minute speech? After all, it's not like we're running for office! It seems absurd . . . unless it's stalking you like the paranormal abomination residing in your attic. 

Writing my speech was PAINLESS compared to the APPREHENSION that followed. A general speech consists of "a HOOK," THREE MAIN POINTS, and a STRONG CONCLUSION. As soon as my speech was proofed, my PAUSES highlighted, and then printed . . . my pulse kicked-up a knotch. Now I had to PRACTICE! 

The full-length mirror behind my bedroom door, served as an audience. A tall stool acted as my podium, and my new digital-recorder was the microphone. I was coached to "leave the podium," and walk from one side of the stage to the other. This was DELINITELY out of my COMFORT ZONE! Closet writers are not gregarious . . .

My coach recommended I MEMORIZE my "OPENING and the CONCLUSION," speaking from my HEART. I could read THE BODY, if necessary, as long as I maintained EYE CONTACT with the audience. I practiced until I wore a footpath in my white carpet . . .

I soon knew most of the BODY by heart, but my problem was the ticking clock. The speech was to last 5-minutes or less!  A time-keeper with green, yellow and red cards in her lap, would FLASH them at different intervals, allowing a 30-second GRACE PERIOD at the end. If exceeded, you're clapped off! Which would be EMBARRASSING! This was a concern as I continued to exceed 5 minutes when I practiced without reading . . .

Thursday evening, our Master of Ceremonies introduced me, then handed me the microphone. I thanked her, placed my notes on the podium, took a deep breath, and looked around at the audience.  Then I began to speak as I glided across the stage . . . holding the cord in my other hand.

"IMAGINE . . . you're sitting in your car . . . the doors and windows are LOCKED . . . the gas pedal's pushed to the floor . . . the engine is RACING . . . the horn is BLARING . . . and YOU CAN'T GET OUT!" I stated firmly.

"This is what POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER feels like as was told by one young veteran to his army doctor . . ."

At the end of my speech, I still had time left. Everyone clapped and my PRESENTATION EVALUATIONS were extremely complementary. This time I didn't shake, and I knew I had just stepped OUTSIDE-OF-THE-BOX where I normally reside . . . I felt the wind in my face!! 


Last week, I mentioned that Tom Carey, a classmate from my writing class in Santa Barbara, brought in a sample cover for my book that he had graciously developed . . . which I never got to see because I was home memorizing my speech . . .

I was determined not to let that happen again, even though I was giving my Main Speech that evening.

When Tom arrived at class, he quietly took a seat at the desk in front of me, and within minutes, he set his artwork on my desk, then turned because Cork, our teacher, was starting class. 

During the 16 years I spent writing Diary of a Vet's Wife, I never once conjured up an image for a bookcover. Not once! Up until now, my book was only words in my head, on paper, and spoken out loud.

When Tom first offered, he asked for my ideas . . . I had none! All I could give him were words:  LOVE, MARRIAGE, FAMILY, WAR, VIETNAM VET, POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, CHURCH . . . but nothing concrete. The only thing Tom had to go on . . . he heard me read a few chapters from my book on different occassions.

When I FIRST SAW his concept. . . I was STUNNED! Good? Bad? I didn't know. I had no idea what I wanted in the first place, so I had no idea what to expect! I put it away in a folder.  A little later, I looked at it again. Still unsure. I did this a number of times. Tom and I talked some at break, but I believed he understood what I struggled with. HIS ARTWORK was COMPELLING!  I won't go into detail because I may want to keep it UNDER WRAP until my book release  . . . but I vascillated for days.

I can only describe the feeling as a woman who is pregnant for nine months . . . She knows she has a child growing within her, she can feel it move, but she has no idea what it looks like. The day her child is born is the first time she SEES her baby. A tiny stranger who will be with her THE REST OF HER LIFE . . .

A cover gives my book a life of its own! This is the first time MY WORDS HAVE A FACE! The reality is startling and wonderful at the same time. It's HUGE! It's been 4 days and I've grown to LOVE IT! So much so, I've asked Tom to join me on My Journey into Publishing My First Book . . . I'm waiting for his answer.

You can visit Tom Carey @ AndAwayWeGotheDyslexicWriter Artist and Traveler

Lesson Learned . . . my two cents

A book cover should SHOW what your story is about and GRAB the readers attention!  This can be difficult . . . but it's most important!

Remember: Covers sell books.  Also, ask your designer to generate a variety of iterations of the image: large, small, hi-resolution (for print publications), low-resolution (for web-based publications), and even black and white.  When it comes time to promote your book on other sites, it will make their job easier if you're able to send them the right size artwork.  (Well-Fed Self Publisher - Peter Bowerman) 


  1. Bravo, Nancy!!! I'm so thrilled for you! It sounds like you knocked it out of the park. And I'm sad I couldn't be there last Thursday. I'm dying to see what Tom came up with for you.

  2. Congrats on your speech going well! And seeing your cover, that's so exciting! Yay!

  3. Big congrats on your speech, Nancy! I can certainly relate to the terror, having been tongue-tied all through school. Discovering an enjoyment of public speaking as an adult was a huge surprise, and I realized the fear lessened as I believed in the value of what I had to share. You absolutely have a powerful, necessary message, and your audiences are better off for hearing from you. Good on you for the courage and generosity to share!

  4. Know that feeling, well done, practice overcomes fear, good luck for the next speech and the one after that and that time in the future when you can look back and be amazed at how far you have come.

  5. Becky, Your words inspire me to greater heights as always. And you made it to class to see my cover. Thrilled you liked it! I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel:D

  6. Kelly - You're kind words are always noted. I so admire the drive and tenacity displayed in you own journey as you now step into the mystery of a new genre. Congrats to you too!

  7. Oh, Tele, thank you for stopping by and your encouragement. You mean someday I'll "actually enjoy" public speaking?? Been too busy to network lately, but hope one day to get back in the groove. Alaskan King Salmon, you're one lucky lady! Except I couldn't handle the cold like you do.

  8. Claire - I never in a million years would have believed I could speak in public having acquired PTSD from living with my husband's illness. To me, it's a miracle. Thank you for your support.

  9. Congratulations on the successful speech! And as for book covers, they really are very important. 'Never judge a book by its cover' only applies to well-known authors (and even for them, I imagine they do appreciate an artistic, tasteful cover, too).