Writing is One Thing; Presenting is Another by Anne McCarthy Strauss
I grew up surrounded by books – more accurately, library books. Both my parents were avid readers, but my father, an attorney, could read circles around my mother. Every Saturday, our routine was the same. I’d hop in the back of our Plymouth Belvedere for a trip across town to the library and the supermarket.
Both raised in Brooklyn, my parents had relied on public transportation. When we moved to the suburbs, neither parent had a driver’s license. My mother lost the coin toss on which of them would take driving lessons. She became the family chauffeur.
I’d start reading the books I’d check out of the library in the car, testing myself on how many pages I could complete before the three-mile journey brought us home. Eschewing whatever treats had been purchased at the A & P, I ran to my room, lay down on my single bed, tucked in an eve of our Cape Cod-style home, and devoured a book instead.
As a child, I was painfully shy. Oh, I had friends, but I was never the leader of the pack. Because I loved to read and was a skilled writer, I hoped to grow up to make my living as a writer. Ensconced in my garret, I would pen beautiful words that would somehow make their way into a world where people would read them. In my childhood fantasy, the proceeds would arrive in my garret, and I’d never have to leave. I thought writing would be a great job for the shy or even for the agoraphobic.
But in the years between my childhood fantasy and today, two things happened: the Internet and the global economy.
What this means for writers is that their readers want to hear about their books on the Internet. The Internet will send the message far and wide. No longer can the writer hide behind the garret’s drawn shades, pounding out words s/he will never have to read to the public. Today’s writer must be half fabulous word smith and half in-person and online presenter.
When I was in college I was actually able to get a doctor’s note relieving me from taking a required speech class. I kept my average up by writing some of the more highly graded stories and essays in my writing classes. When I was asked to read aloud, a professor would usually defer to allowing a classmate to read my piece. Thus sheltered, I obtained my B.A. in Journalism. I graduated from college hoping I’d write fiction – never having to interview anyone or be seen on a television screen. Print media was my goal; maybe a stamp sized photo on the side.
But somehow I ended up in a career in public relations in which my skill set had to include the very things that terrified me – phone calls to strangers, coaching senior executives, giving speeches and presentations. I’ve always been told I appear calm on these occasions. Only I know that even after thirty years experience, my heart still flutters and my knees still knock behind the podium. But I always persevere because I know the only thing worse than giving a speech is stopping one midstream, letting the audience know you couldn’t cut it.
Anne McCarthy Strauss is versatile writer, publicist and author. Her work has appeared in Old House Journal, Waterfront Home & Design, Design Trade Magazine, Design New England, Distinction, Log Home Design Ideas and Florida Design Review. She has been a regular contributor to Martha’s Vineyard Magazine and Vineyard Style. Anne lives on Long Island, New York with her husband and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. A Medical Affair is her first novel. Learn more and order your copy here.
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