Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stage Fright

Stage Fright. It has been called an actor’s worst nightmare. But actors are not the only people who experience stage fright. And with the upcoming release of my second novel, Coming Home, it’s something I have to start thinking about – again. I spoke with the director of my local library, and she wants me to do a book signing/reading when Coming Home is released.
I’ve done it before, when In Sunshine or in Shadow, my first novel, came out. I thought nothing of it at first. Get up and read in front of an audience? Sure, I'd love to, I replied. And at that moment, an inner trembling seized my entire body. What have I gotten myself into?

And now I’m feeling those butterflies all over again.

I'm sure other authors have felt the same way in similar situations. Many writers shy away from the limelight. But I was luckier than most, because I was able to consult an expert. A friend of mine, who is also an actor, had been advising me about writing an actor hero, so it seemed natural to ask him about stage fright and what to do about it.

Here's what he told me:

There is no magical formula for dealing with stage fright. Anyone can suffer from it, from the actor stepping onstage for the first time, to the greatest actors. And if you forget a line, you try to improvise.

As far as my reading was concerned, my friend suggested I practice reading in front of family, people I know and trust. That was the key: imagining I was reading to one person I love and trust. He also advised me to take deep breaths, and to take my time.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with stage fright. I made sure I brought my lucky (stuffed) leprechaun, Seamus O’Reagan, to my signing that day, just for an extra confidence booster. But the tips worked. My reading went off without a hitch.

I also sold every book.

Here’s hoping my next signing will be as successful!

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have taught school and Sunday School, and even addressed a group at BeauMonde's convention. Yet when asked to speak aloud at a church service, I felt as though I couldn't breathe.I had to decline. Once in play I could barely get the words out. I had been fine at rehearsals.
I have sat in a book store dressed in regency clothes and ralked about Jane Austen-- so I do not know what triggers the panic. It might be the size of the place or how many people I am speaking to.

Cynthia Owens said...

It can be extremely intimidating to speak before an audience, sometimes even more so when the group is small. But my friend's advice - deep breaths and taking my time, and especially imagining I was talking to one single person - really helped.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I suppose we can use these same practices while doing pitches. It makes me nervous, but I love my story and have decided if I don't remember my pitch, I know my h/h well enough to wing it. Thanks for the advice, Cynthia.

Cynthia Owens said...

Paisley, I think the advice helps no matter what we're doing, but expecially when it's something we care about as much as we do our stories. Good luck with the pitch, and thanks for stopping by!

Loreen Augeri said...

I am also going to have a booksigning at a library and am nervous about doing it.Your advice will help.Thanks.

Loreen Augeri

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Loreen, hope the advice will help. Good luck with your signing, and thanks for visiting!

Anita Clenney said...

Awesome post. When I was a kid I would take an F rather than present an oral report. I don't like being in the spotlight. For me, I think it comes down to worrying about looking foolish. Ironically, people are always surprised to learn this about me because I can appear very outgoing. I really enjoyed reading this.

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Anita, thanks for stopping by. I also hated doing oral presentations, especially in French, even though I was fluently bilingual. It's that "on-stage" feeling, I guess, the feeling that everyone's watching and just waiting for you to mess up. Glad you enjoyed the post!

Julie Robinson said...

Congrats on selling all your books, Cynthia.
Way to go.
Take your lucky leprechaun the next time too!
Julie

Julie Robinson said...

BTW, I think it's comforting if you can have something from home with you, no matter what it is. It's presence gives you a sense of stability, which comes across as confidence and allows you to be more natural. Just my psycho analysis.
Julie

Cynthia Owens said...

Julie, thanks for the congrats. "Coming Home," my new story, is very close to my heart, and I'm thrilled it will be released soon.
As for bringing something from home, definitely! It's the "Teddy Bear Syndrome," or the security blanket. I'm planning to take Seamus O'Reagan with me, along with the little Connemara marble "Worry Stone" I found in a shop in Dublin last year. Thanks for stopping by!

Caroline Clemmons said...

Cynthia, great post. Good luck with your books.

Cynthia Owens said...

Thanks, Caroline!

Julie Robinson said...

I never heard it called the 'Teddy Bear Syndrome."
But I like it! Very apt.

Allison Chase said...

Cynthia, I can relate! The thought of public speaking makes me queasy! The thing is, once I get going I always calm down and even enjoy myself. What often helps is "confiding" to my audience that I'm a bit nervous and making a joke about it.

Cynthia Owens said...

Allison, whatever works for you, keep it up! Thanks for visiting!