The Bashful Author: Overcoming Shyness

People who haven’t known me since childhood might be surprised to learn I was my high school’s class poet my senior year, the dubious honor of which was standing onstage and reading some horrible bit of overblown poetry in front of the graduates and families.

OMG. I wore some horrible pink pantsuit and my mom says I was shaking so badly she could see me trembling from the stands.

*mumble mumble* number of years later, I’m still petrified before a crowd. And a crowd constitues anything over two people. Even if it’s people I know. I’ve ALMOST gotten used to reading to my writing group. Almost. And there’s only five of us.

Members of my group were encouraging me last night to participate in “Open Mic” night at the upcoming Alabama Writers Conclave conference, which takes place Friday through Sunday in Birmingham. “Take one of the chapters from River Road,” they encouraged. “People will love it.”

Uh, stand in front of a group of strangers–writers no less–and read? I’d rather have my eyes shoved out with ice picks. Really. I am not exaggerating.

So, this whole writer self-promotion thing is a daunting task for me. Author signings? Sure, I do well one-on-one. Workshops where I’m on a panel? Good deal. I’m all over that. I don’t have to be alone in the spotlight. Guest blogs? Online interviews? Hell yeah, I’m game.

Put me behind a microphone and make me talk? I’m SO not over that. I make myself do it. In the past few years, I’ve done hourlong speeches, multi-day workshops where I was the only faculty member. All kinds of stuff. I still feel the need to down a bottle of Xanax before the mic goes on, and I love to hide behind Power Point presentations.

Hmm…there’s an idea. Off to do a Power Point for my novels…

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

8 thoughts on “The Bashful Author: Overcoming Shyness

  1. Suzanne, great minds think alike. I blogged about basically the same thing today at WITS. People think I’m gregarious, but I used to have panic attacks when I was in a room full of people I didn’t know. I’m obviously better now, but that kind of thing can still send me into a hot flash attack. I feel your pain.

    Boone Brux

  2. I got over speaking to groups, because I taught night classes for a while. However, I completely lock up in one-on-one situations! I can do, “Hello, how are you?” and that’s the extent of my witty conversation for the hour. After that, I just nod and smile a lot.

    And yes, PowerPoint presentations are excellent!

  3. I’m the same way but I think that over time, forcing myself to speak in front of others in situations like that, it’s slowly getting easier. I’ll never think its fun but it’s not a nightmare anymore.

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys. Boone, I would NEVER have thought you were a secret wallflower! We need to be at the same conferences to keep each other company.

    Teresa and Nicole–I think repeated exposure’s probably the answer…But PowerPoints help!

  5. I hear ya Suzanne! I haven’t had to speak as an author (yet ;)) but for my day job I used to have to do presentaions to bored students and their anxious parents (I’m a financial aid counselor ;)). Somoetimes up to 500-600 folks.
    I was terrified at first, but then something just snapped and I got into the “zone”. From then on I was fine 🙂

  6. (((shivers))) just thinking about it. I’m the same way, Suzanne. However, I did my first workshop this year and I didn’t faint, but luckily I had another lady with me or I would have freaked. I’m a basket case when all eyes are on me. haha… Like Boone said, heat flash attack…So that’s why I came to your blog – I want some scoop from the Pro’s…

    Dawn Chartier

  7. I’ve started talking about writing and becoming an author. I just keep thinking to myself “they don’t know what I’ll say so just talk”.
    I always hated giving speeches in school, but I’m older now and don’t worry what others may think of what I say.

  8. Marie and April–I need to get in that zone and not worry what others think. I start listening to myself and being critical, which I think is a big part of the problem.

    And Dawn, I’m tellin’ ya–PowerPoint. Some kind of visual to keep the audience looking somewhere else!