First night nerves

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Leading Edge booksellers’ conference in Melbourne. I was invited to their dinner on Friday night and asked to speak for twenty minutes about my novel. Leading Edge are the buying group working with and supporting Australia’s independent bookstores. These are the shops run by some of the most passionate booksellers across Australia. These are the people that can start the buzz, make things happen, help a book to fly … or die. Twenty minutes! Twenty freaking minutes to talk and tell them a bit about me and my book. It’s fair to say I was nervous.

I’ve spent a lot of hours, days and months sitting at a desk, writing a novel but this was the first opportunity to appear in public as Hannah Richell the author. The time is coming, it seems, for me to climb out of my pjs, brush my hair, don a public face and get out there and champion my book. It’s quite a contrast: the aloneness, the quietness of the actual writing process versus the all-singing all-dancing stuff that comes with being an ‘author’. And I’m not a natural extrovert. Frankly I feel pretty terrified about letting down all those good people kind enough to support my work.

But I needn’t have worried about the Leading Edge gig. The booksellers were incredibly warm and friendly. They LOVE books and as the evening unfolded, it became apparent, of course, that they like to support writers. They want to sell books. I walked up to the front of the room with clammy hands and a thudding heart, but as soon as I started talking a strange thing happened: the fear just melted away.

Perhaps it was the glass of champagne I drank just before we sat down for dinner. Perhaps it was the pep talk I received from the lovely bookseller seated next to me, who told me just before I went up, to be myself and to speak from the heart. (He was so convincing I decided to leave my notes on the table.) Or perhaps it was the sudden realisation, sitting there with all those bookish folk, that there is nothing I like more than being part of a creative team of people all pulling in the same direction. It was always the thing I loved most when I worked in publishing: being part of something, being part of a team. Because the truth is, when everyone is excited and passionate and pulling in the same direction (and it does take everyone), that’s when the magic happens.

It’s an equation: author + agent + editor + sales + marketing + publicity + production + booksellers + readers = one big, marvellous magic-making team

It gave me such a buzz to remember that being the author is really just like before when I worked in marketing. I’m back in the team! I’m just a different part of the equation now. And it gave me an equally big buzz to wind-up the twenty minutes later with a huge smile on my face. Because that’s the other great truth: there is nothing quite like the thrill of conquering something scary.

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One comment

  1. Great work! I remember my first public reading. The room was packed (because, you know, it was also my only public reading and at a prominent bookstore and therefore all my friends and coworkers were there plus anyone they could drag in). Right before I left to go to the event I received an email from a friend saying, “good luck. Personally I can’t think of anything more terrifying than standing up in front of people and reading my work out loud.”

    This friend had been ambushed by gunman the year before in Sudan and narrowly escaped with his life. It was not exactly what you might call a good “pep talk.” But the event itself was fabulous.

    Glad you had a good time.

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