Quick: How Do You Handle Nerves?

I went to Powell's this morning to see if we were on the marquee (no--at least not yet) and I found this lovely little chalkboard of event announcements.

I went to Powell’s this morning to see if we were on the marquee (no–at least not yet) and I found this lovely little chalkboard with my name on it!

I’m getting surprisingly nervous today, as we approach this evening’s Powell’s reading. I’ve read in public before–not tons of times, but enough to know I can get up on stage, or behind the podium, look out at friends and family and well-wishers and just go for it.

There’s always that moment of oh yes, this feels right, I can do this. That surge of joy and confidence.

Today, though, the stakes seem higher. It’s Powell’s! My dream! And I’m already feeling jittery in a super excited, over the top sort of way. I plan to fill the next few hours with distractions (plus choosing an appropriate hair clip to keep my bangs out of my eyes when I’m reading, and since I have very few hair clips that might use up thirty seconds).

If you’ve read in public, how did you handle the waiting before the event? What else should I do between now and 7:30, when I’m sitting in the Pearl Room, listening to a Powell’s staffer introduce our event?

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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26 Responses to Quick: How Do You Handle Nerves?

  1. I’ve never had the honor of reading in public, so I apologize for my lack of advice. But this is so cool, so congratulations!

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    I haven’t read in public, just stood there looking ill-at-ease during a book signing. But I wish you well. I’m sure you’ll do great. 🙂

    • I will think of you, Carrie, when I’m standing there ill at ease before the reading! At least my part is all scripted out, and I’ve practiced it a lot. I’m so glad other authors agreed to participate in the panel discussion; they have the hardest part, I think!

  3. Judy Fleagle says:

    I practice with a timer and then make sure I have everything I need and put it by the door, and once I feel ready, I distract myself with an audio book. I’ve given 40+ Powerpoint presentations about my book, the bridges, and the old-timer stories within the book since April 2011 when it came out. So I’m not as nervous as I was the first few times. I also change it some for each presentation. I like to get there early, get whatever set up I need to do done, and then greet folks as they come in. That makes me feel la part of the group. Make sure you feel prepared and then just go for it. Enjoy every moment!!

    • Judy, these are great tips. I have my extra books in the car but need to prep the rest of my stuff, like my clipboard with our press mailing list. Then I’ll move onto the distraction part of the afternoon. Thanks!

  4. Bailey Murphy says:

    Right after Ursula! Wow!


  5. Bryna says:

    I’m so excited and nervous for you! I was invited to read a poem I wrote at college. Okay, so it was in front of those who came to see me, two of my former professors (who I don’t think recognized me), and a handful of other English students… and my family and friends outnumbered pretty much everyone else who came. Anyways, besides nearly being sick (before I knew who was going to be there), I did one of the things Judy mentioned: distracted myself. Nothing helps more than finding anything else to laugh about and talking about anything besides the event. : ) Best of luck tonight!

    • How fun that must have been, Bryna, to look out and see so many supporters in the audience! I hope something similar happens tonight.

      I am going to shut my brain down now with some happy-fun knitting and hopefully find more distractions for the rest of the afternoon. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  6. As soon as you get going, you will forget to be nervous. Remember, the audience wants you to succeed. Remember that you are giving them a gift. You will shine!

  7. Stefanie says:

    Well, rest assured, I thought you did wonderfully! Charming and engaging! It was very nice to meet you (a fellow stay-at-home mom) and get my book signed by you and a few of the other wonderful writers aboard! Good job!

    • Hi, Stefanie! Thanks so much for coming up and saying hi afterwards. I intended to give you one of my postcards with my contact information, but then I got engaged in another conversation. Pop me an email sometime at laurastanfill at hotmail dot com if you want to chat!

    • It was incredible, Emerald! Overflow crowd, with people standing and sitting by the shelves. My hubby counted 125-plus, and the energy was so inspiring and energizing. I didn’t know most of the people there, which was amazing–our calendar listings worked!–and once we got started I wasn’t nervous at all.

      I’ll write a full blog post, maybe later this week, with photos too! Right now I’m just basking in the outpouring of creative joy.

  8. Debra Kristi says:

    Sounds like you did a great job. How do you feel about it? A very exciting moment. I’m so happy for you. 😀

    • Thanks, Debra! It couldn’t have gone better (except the moment I was standing at the podium and realized the rest of my speech was sitting on my chair in the audience… ). I’m still full of that happy energy today, running on a few hours’ sleep and grinning constantly.

  9. jmmcdowell says:

    My experience has been limited to a few papers at professional conferences. I’ve been nervous as all heck, but at least I only had to read the paper in front of me and not speak extemporaneously at all. But I’ll bet you did great. You know your book and the authors inside and out!

    • Thankfully, I got to use my speech for most of it, other than at the very end, during Q and A, and by that time we were all so energized by the audience’s reactions that I had so much fun! I think everyone else did too. There were so many great insights about the writer’s life that came from the panel and the Q and A period. Kate Gray, in responding to a question about writing fiction based on your family, said wait until everyone is dead to publish it. Yuvi Zalkow, who wrote A Brilliant Novel in the Works, told us what his dad objected to in the novel (which is about a writer named Yuvi). His dad didn’t care that the father figure was dead; he objected to the father drinking one martini a day, since he’s really a two-martini guy. Jon Bell (nonfiction) talked about meeting Tre Arrow, the famous activist, and how he had to edit out certain bits of story and color that weren’t appropriate for his book. Robert Hill talked about writing an entire novel from the POV of his parents. Kristy Athens talked about adding research to her country living book, which was partially based on her own experiences living in the country.

      I could go on… and on… and on… so fun.

  10. Jo Eberhardt says:

    I know I’m a bit late to the party, and I hope it all went really well for you, but I just had to pop in and say:

    Wow. The coolest (and scariest) thing about that picture is that your name is directly under Ursula K Le Guin’s!

    • And her book was next to mine on the events shelf. Amazing! It did go really well, Jo. I wish I could rewind and relive every minute. My nerves went away once I was in that hallowed space, watching it fill up.

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