So not only did you teach me about writing memoir, you also taught me about reading and thinking about how others write memoir. Thank you so much! Rebecca
Showing posts with label public speaking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label public speaking. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Learn to Listen. You will become a good conversationalist.

After reading a blog by an author who admitted he did not get much from critique groups or workshops when he was a student because he talked too much, I began thinking of the importance of listening.

When I was a youngster, I was shy, self-conscious and quiet in class, but my ears were always open. At an early age, I learned to listen to those who did talk.

What Lies Below the Surface
Like the saying “still waters run deep,” I was like the place where we kids swam, Blue Springs, a hole, some said bottomless, with smooth surface water. It was difficult to know that down deep the spring water boiled up from underground to feed the lake. That was my mind boiling away while on the surface I was quiet and serene.
As a kid I was curious about everything. I devoured books. I had immense wonder about life beyond my isolated little world. I craved adventure. I read books about catching and taming wild stallions. I read about people who lived far away from where I grew up in my large family. I wanted to know how they lived and what they did in their homes.

I wanted to meet the girls in Little Women. I loved Jo and Beth, and cried my eyes out when Beth died. Perhaps my lasting empathy for others developed through reading.

Many, many years later I came to realize that I gave myself permission to feel deeply. I did not hide from my feelings. When I hurt I cried, much to my embarrassment many times. When I was happy I laughed with abandon. Sentimental movies brought out my tissues and my sobs. I was accused of wearing my feelings on my sleeve. I bruised easily. Harsh words cut through me like a knife blade. I took rejection of any kind personally and beat myself up for being stupid, ignorant or lazy. As a teen or a college age student, a broken romance buried me for months. Whether I broke up with him or he with me, I hurt.

I belive my empathy for others came from being still and listening. I listened to my own feelings. I saw and felt the fear and the emotional ache of others when larger kids bullied them, humiliated them. At times I felt the whole world was made up of pain, and I bore it for everyone.

At one point in my adult life I decided to take the Dale Carnegie Course on public speaking. I hoped it would help me get over my shyness, give me self-confidence and help me meet the public in my work. I read the books required for the course and was amazed at the insight I found there. I found out there were others just like me. People who had such a fear of public speaking that they passed out. I was sure that would happen to me if I were ever called on to stand before a group and talk.

After a few meetings, it was not long before I lost most of my fear. Perhaps that was because I realized the others, mostly men, were more frightened of public speaking  than I. One man, a friend of my brother, surprised me. I thought, because he was a successful business man, he would have no trouble speaking publicly. However, I learned that the greatest fear of most people is that of speaking before a large group.

We were taught that the most important thing we had to do was just be ourselves.  Don’t put on airs or try to impress others. "Just be the same person you are when you stand before an audience as you are to your spouse, your kids or your friends." Those wise words from our instructor hit home.
The second thing I learned was to listen. When someone in our group stood and gave his five-minute talk, we gave him our undivided attention. That helped him relax and do his best. The more we listened the more we learned about each other. We began to feel like a little family. I find this happens in my writing classes, especially memoir classes.

In one of Dale Carnegie’s books he writes about the importance of listening.
“When you listen well, and let others talk, they will go away saying you are a wonderful conversationalist.”

While listening we aren’t thinking of what we want to say, how we are affecting our listener, we have the easy task of seeing the speaker, reading the speakers’ mannerisms, and taking in his words, roiling them around in our minds and seeing the real person before us.

As a school teacher I saw that children, who wouldn’t be quiet and listen, were the students who usually made the worst grades. Listening is an art we must perfect if we are to attain excellence in relationships, in our work and especially in writing.
When we stop listening, we stop learning. We stop being a good conversationalist. When we refuse to  listen we close out those we might learn from, those who could offer us just what we need.

Link:  Never too Late to Change Your Life

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Monday, June 13, 2011

One More Book

Books - too many in my house. As I constantly try to downsize and get rid of my stuff, I continue to buy books. Recently I picked up a copy of Speak Up: The Public Speaking Primer by Carol Roan. She spoke at the Bookfest in Hendersonville recently and I was impressed with her. This little book is on the subject of speaking before an audience.
Many years ago when I was preparing for a job as a salesperson I was advised to take a public speaking course. I still remember the people in that class and the skills I learned have been some of the most important in my life.
Shy, timid, self-conscious -- all are words that described the person I was when I was young. A professor at the University told me I would never be a teacher. "They won't be able to hear you beyond the first row."

I had stage fright, or a fear of public speaking. You might know that fear of having to stand before a group and speaking. Instead of saying what you mean to say, you babble and you feel sweat rolling down your sides. You sit down and don't remember what you said, but you know it must have been awful because you feel humiliated.
I remember my heart pounding, my mouth dry as a south Georgia creek in August. That was me most of my life.
But, today I have turned the anxiety of public speaking into energy and I have no fear of standing before a group and talking about any subject of interest to me. I have thought on this transformation in myself and I believe it came when I began to speak to promote others -- to tell the audience about my friend, or a guest , and it was not about me. It was all about someone else.
This little book by Carol Roan  interests me because she gives concrete tips and advice to overcome this most feared experience. Speak Up,the Public Speaking Primer was published by Press 53, Winston-Salem NC.
If you have a fear of reading your work before an audience or speaking to any group, read Carol's book and take a public speaking course. It can change your life.

Carol Roan is also  co-editor of When Last on the Mountain: The View From Writers Over 50. (Holy Cow! Press)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Techniques to Improve Your Reading to the Public

We in the region of southwest NC and N Georgia are fortunate to have Karen Holmes teach a public speaking class at Writers Circle.

Karen has spoken at international conferences. She is experienced and comfortable standing in front of an audience, and was a student of the Speakeasy Intensive Workshop.
We could pay hundreds of dollars for a workshop similar to Karen's classes at Writers Circle.

All of us can improve our reading before an audience. Not only do we want and need to be comfortable speaking in public, we want our audience to understand us, to enjoy our reading, and we want to connect with the people who come to hear us read our work.
Although I have been studying for years the art of connecting with my audience, I want to see what others see when I stand up to speak. I want to see what I need to do to improve my presentation. With Karen's help, I know I will find out ways to make my readings better.

A publisher at a conference last year told me he doesn't like to publish books by authors who are not good readers. He even made up a booklet that he gives to his authors on how to give a good reading. Good readings sell books.

I urge any writer who has written a book or hopes to write a book and who reads before the public to take classes. No matter how terrific our writing, if we don't present it well, it will not be appreciated.

Karen Holmes' classes at Writers Circle are $30 for one class (the first one) and $50 for both classes. She will teach on Sunday afternoons, March 20 and 27, 1:30 to 4:30 PM. Please contact Karen at or Glenda Beall at with any questions.

To register by mail, send a check made to Writers Circle, 581 Chatuge Lane, Hayesville, NC 28904 - include your name, phone number and email address.