Category Archives: public speaking

Speaking Engagements

Hiddey-ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here – on a short vacation from my vacation!  I had an exciting first yesterday and I wanted to come back to the land of bloggers and tell you about it. 

Y’all know I write children’s books, right?  Heavens, if not, click here to see my bookshelf.  Well, all of the indie pub’d children’s authors I’ve met tell me the same thing, “We’re not getting any of the e-book love because our audience doesn’t have access to spend their own money.”  Too true – children’s authors need to appeal to kids and parents both.  One drives the demand for the book, the other holds the purse strings. 

One way to get books in kids hands is by going to their school and speaking with them, while at the same time, getting the school to allow a flyer to go home to the parents to sell books.  This happens with some regularity, my niece brought home at least 3 author visit book order forms this year.  But the trick is, to get the PTO or whomever, to select you out of the giant pile of authors who want to visit.

Big name authors charge big bucks for the speaking engagement as well.  I know of one author who charged my school $900 as a speaking fee, plus sold books for a whopping $14.95 a piece.  Not a bad haul for a day’s work.

While I know that getting into schools is a good way to market to my audience and I’m pretty comfortable talking in front of a crowd, I haven’t made much progress at this goal until yesterday. 

Yesterday was my first in-school author visit.  I spent the day in a K-2 school.  I gave 2 forty-five minute presentations to 150 kids at a time.  I talked about the things you need to write a story – and idea, characters, conflict and plot.  And I did a creative writing project with 40 kids where we wrote a story together and the children illustrated it. 

All in all it went very well.  I knew that the creative writing project was going to be a for a smaller group, but didn’t realize until the day before the event that “smaller” was 40 kids!  I had envisioned like 12 kids.  But even that piece went really well.  The kids were attentive, excited and seemed to really enjoy it. 

I was a bit worried that my explanation of the 3 types of conflict would be boring or over their heads, even though I used examples that I knew they would be familiar with, but I don’t think that it was.  They seemed engaged, and were able to answer questions.

In the end, it was quite a fun experience.  I got paid to speak, nothing like $900, but enough, and I sold 30 copies of Brook the Fish.  Once I put it together, I’ll have an example of the classroom creative writing project that I think could be a good selling point for other schools.  And most importantly, I’m over the hurdle of the first one.  While I was never nervous about speaking, I had been procrastinating this whole school-speaker thing because I hadn’t done it before and didn’t know if it would work or if it would be a disaster.

So here’s a secret for you: don’t procrastinate because you don’t know if something will go well.  Just jump in and do it.  If you have a disaster on your hands, you’ll likely get some insight into how to fix it, but you might surprise yourself and have a win.

Do you like to try new things?  What kinds of things scare you?



Glossophobia – Fear of Public Speaking by Katy Lee

Hello, Katy Lee here. Due to a speaking event I am attending this weekend, I decided to share my thoughts on public speaking again. Enjoy!

Writing is an isolated venture, except if you want to keep the lights on. For someone who wants to make a living as an author, stepping out to sell your work requires finesse in the art of public speaking. For an introvert, such as me, the idea of pitching to editors and agents to sell my work, triggers panic to set in. The concept of building a platform to gain readership means talking to people. Sometimes one-on-one. Sometimes on a stage. The point I am making here, though, is there comes a time when writing is no longer sequestered.

Are you ready to start talking?

Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is remarkably common. In fact, some experts estimate that as much as 75% of the population has some level of anxiety when it comes to this. There are some people who fear it more than death, but most are able to control this fear to get the job done.

Many writers believe they have chosen a career that allows them to avoid public speaking. They think speaking jobs are in the corporate world or in sales. Or perhaps they think standing up in front of a group is found only in a classroom, teaching, or on a stage, acting. But things could not be further from the truth.

Agents and editors want to hear the excitement about your stories right from your mouth. If you have an opportunity to meet a literary professional face-to-face, you need to be ready to shine. Also, readers want to know you personally. With the social networks available now, this task is easier than ever, but chances for more intimate settings like a speaking event will help you connect with more people. Relationship building will give you a platform to succeed.

Now, I could tell you to get over your fears and get up there and start talking, but I’ve been in your shoes and know that’s not possible. Your fear is real. For me, prayer was my first step. As in inspirational writer, I firmly believe God has given me these stories to tell, and so I told Him if I was going to do this, then I would need His help in relieving some of this fear. And as always He came through.

Opportunities presented themselves to me where I could learn coping skills for stepping out and opening up. Leadership classes such as Toastmasters were taken. I was then offered the children’s ministry director position for my church – speaking to children. Now there’s a scary task. But I did it, and little by little my fear went away. My fumbling over words lessened. My voice got louder, and I stood straighter. Yay God!

But about a year ago, I was invited to speak to a group of women at a monthly Aglow meeting. At first I said, “No, I could never do that. Children were one thing, but adults? Never.” But in the end I did end up accepting the invitation. Since then I have been invited to speak all over New England. It has been an amazing adventure.

The Unlocked Secret: God does not want us to fear anything. In fact, His Word tells us, He did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) And I don’t know about you, but if it’s not from Him, then I don’t want it. So goodbye fear, and let’s talk.

Question: Do you suffer with a little bit of Glossophobia, too? How do you overcome it?

2013 Writers Conferences

I’ve only ever been to two writer’s conferences. They both were put on by my local RWA chapter (CTRWA). I usually like to be a worker bee on conference day, so I tend to miss all the great work shops and networking that a lot of other people might enjoy on conference day. This year I plan to change that. (I got a book coming out in August!) Of course I’m going to be working my own chapter’s conference but this year I plan to attend some others.

In the past one of the major reasons I didn’t attend other conferences was the cost. RWA’s National conference was way WAY out of my budget. The registration fee alone is more than my car payment and my electricity bill combined. Even local conferences can be expensive. Besides the registration fees, they require travel and sometimes a stay overnight in a hotel. For a lot of us that is just not feasible.

BUT I think it is important for writers to attend conferences. I know a few writers who have snagged agents and or book deals from the pitch sessions. It’s a chance to meet other writers, to make friendships,to get your name out there, to learn from other writers. And if you don’t have a fear of public speaking, to teach writers some of the things you know by giving a workshop.

This year I have set money aside just so I can go to a couple of conferences. (Goodbye very sexy expensive Isabella Cole lace up booties. I’ll be with you in my dreams.)Isabella Cole Boots, EEE Fit

I’m still an extreme newbie to this whole writing thing and I know I’ve got a lot to learn.  So I’ve been looking at some of the conferences.  The New England Chapter of the RWA is hosting their conference April 26-27 in Massachusetts. The price is $219 if you register before March 1st. They’ve got some pretty big names attending. If you want to check it out here’s the link.  Plus my friends TL Costa and Peter Andrews will be there giving workshops.

Then there is the Backspace Writer’s conference  May 23-25, 2013 with agent extraordinaire Donald Mass giving a workshop. This conference seems less romance friendly than some others but still valuable to attend. The early bird price is $595. The regular is $720. Plus it’s in NYC which means expensive hotel rooms.  But if you got the cash to spare…

Then there is the mother of all Romance conferences. RWA’s annual conference, which I’m planning to attend, will be held July 12-20 in Atlanta. The cost? $450 if you register early. $500 if you don’t. I hear this conference is an absolute blast and besides all the networking opportunities you really learn about the romance industry. So I plan to go and will be convincing my friends to save their pennies so I won’t have to go alone.

(Goodbye pretty Michael Kors handbag. Maybe I’ll see you in another life.)

So today I need to know from you all, what conferences have you attended? Which are the most beneficial  Which are the most fun? Which are the most cost effective? And which ones are you planning to attend? Maybe I’ll see you there.

Author and Missionary Evelyn Puerto Goes BEYOND THE RAPIDS

Today, Evelyn Puerto is hanging out with the Scribes. She comes to us with exciting experiences and a story to be shared! Welcome, Evelyn!

Thank you, Scribes, and thank you, Katy. For 12 years I served as a missionary and traveled to many dangerous places in the world. I think the most risky trip was flying to Kathmandu a week after a coup had shut down the airport for a few days. I wasn’t really sure the airport would stay open so I could leave, and rumors were flying about civil war flaring up.  

After I returned from being a missionary in Russia, I got married, inheriting three stepdaughters, two stepgrandsons and a cat. Loving the people who came into my life with my husband has been a joy, even when my writing time is interrupted to help a stepdaughter with a car insurance problem. All fodder for another book some day!

And speaking of books and my writing…

Beyond the Rapids is the true story of Ukrainian pastor Alexei Brynza, who served as a Baptist pastor during the final decades of the Soviet Union. He and his wife endured fierce persecution as they struggled to raise their four children as believers in a culture hostile to Christianity, living under a regime determined to stamp out their faith. The Brynzas’ children, forced to choose between God and the communist system, wrestled with temptations of ambition, popularity, love and wealth. Beyond the Rapids is a story of the grace and mercy God extends to His faithful people, and how He helps them triumph over seemingly undefeatable foes.

I met the Brynzas when I traveled to Ukraine while I was serving as a missionary based in Russia. Their warmth and joy as they shared their stories captivated me. Beyond the Rapids compiles their inspiring stories, and reminds us afresh that God is bigger than any trial we face.

In writing Beyond the Rapids I bounced between believing in the story and thinking that what I was writing was mind-numbingly dull. The best way to get past that is to get lots of feedback. But that can be harder than it seems. After I had my first draft finished, I asked four or five people to read it. The only comments I got back were general statements along the lines of “I liked it.” My big mistake was not finding other people to read my book. Instead, I kept rewriting based on what I thought needed to be improved.  I only started feeling confident in Beyond the Rapids after I had gotten several reviews from people I didn’t know. For me, finding honest critics who can offer specific suggestions for improvement while being encouraging is the key. If I know what the problem is, I can rewrite it. It’s the nagging feeling that something— but I don’t know what —is wrong that creates the most doubt.

My biggest misstep in my writing career was a mistake I made from the beginning. Looking back, I can’t imagine why I was so blind. What I did was start writing, thinking I had a clue what I was doing. I had no idea that writing groups and critique groups and conferences even existed. For someone who loves research as much as I do, I can’t believe that during the eight or so years I was writing Beyond the Rapids I didn’t stumble on one of these groups. I would have learned so much and found people who would have offered constructive criticism. That would have saved me a lot of time and many, many rewrites.

As for what’s to come after Beyond the Rapids, lately I’ve been thinking of trying science fiction, which is completely different from the biography/true story genre of my first book. I was enthralled with The Hunger Games, and am inspired to try a bit of world building to see what I could come up with. I’ve got part of the story figured out in my head already, and plan to start seriously working on it in January.

And if I couldn’t be a writer anymore, I’d want to go on the speaker circuit. This is almost shocking for me to admit, since I’ve spent most of my life terrified of public speaking. I started working on my ability to speak in front of groups in order to market my books. Once I got past my fear, I was surprised by how much I enjoy it and that I seem to have a gift for it. Instead of writing my stories, I could share them orally.

I love to hear from readers, and can be reached at Follow me on twitter @evelyn_puerto, or check out

And readers can find Beyond the Rapids here!

Thank you, again, Evelyn for sharing a bit about your experiences and your story with us.

Readers, please ask Evelyn some questions, and I’ll start us off…

What led you to becoming a missionary? And for the record, I would come to listen to you speak!

Nothing Like the Real Thing

Tuesday’s Scribe, PJ Sharon here. One of the things I love about my writing life is all of the fun new experiences I get to have while researching for my books. Last month, I took a day and drove the back roads to Albany so I could get a feel for the landscape, the drive time, and the city.
I’d never been to Albany, but it made sense for my dystopian story to have the main trading hub in the Northeast be located there with the Hudson River and the Erie Canal being so accessible. I had used tools like Google Earth, Google Maps, the Chamber of Commerce for Albany, and Wikipedia, but nothing gave me as much of a visceral experience as really being there. I wanted to feel what my characters might feel, see what they would see, and go where they would go. I wanted to know what the Hudson smelled like and how depressed the economy was. Overall, It was a great experience. I even got to meet the lovely ladies in the Tourist Information Bureau who asked me to make sure to contact them when the book is finished so they can schedule a book signing on site.

Along the same lines, I’ve thought about taking a gun safety course for quite some time. I’d taken one many years ago and done my share of shooting when I was younger, but at the time, with children in my house, I decided I wasn’t willing to take the risk of owning any firearms, so I never got licensed. Now that my kids are long past the age of living at home, and I’m writing about hill folk who own guns, I thought it was a good time to revisit firearms training.  

When I first began writing fiction and I needed to know some details about guns and how to use them, I turned once again to the internet. I began studying types of handguns to determine what size and firepower would best suit my characters, what type of holster they might wear to conceal their weapon, and most importantly, what it would feel like to fire a pistol. Hundreds of YouTube videos later, I had the information I needed, but I was missing the most important parts of the experience. The tactile, visceral experience I vaguely remembered from my youth. The anticipation as you focus the front sight of your pistol on the target down range, the adrenaline rush as you begin to squeeze the trigger, and the sensation of power that kicks back as the gun discharges. Or even the pride you feel when you reel in your target and see how well you did.
You can’t experience that sense of satisfaction from a YouTube video. Gun enthusiast or not, every writer who crafts stories about gun-toting heroes and heroines should try firing a handgun at least once…with supervision of course.

 In my effort to get some real hands on experience, my husband and I sat through a torturously steamy gun safety course this past weekend. That’s right, twenty-five people in a tiny room with no air conditioning for eight hours on a 96 degree day. Ick! It’s a miracle that the only shots fired were down range at the targets. Despite the less than comfortable conditions, I learned a lot about the law, (Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the country), and did quite a good job on both the written and practical exam, scoring 100% and making some nice tight groupings in the black on my target. Like any new skill though, I have a lot to learn, and since I plan to continue writing stories about kick butt heroes and heroines, I plan to continue my training. I’ll be taking the next level course in a few weeks and will be looking into getting certified as an NRA “Refuse to be a Victim” instructor where I’ll actually be able to teach courses in personal safety and crime prevention.  

Even though I started this new adventure as an adjunct to my research, I realized that I’m going to these lengths in part because I’m passionate about personal protection, but also because I believe that everyone should be informed and prepared. In case you missed my series on Self-Defense for Teens, Marian Lanouette has asked me to re-post it to her blog next week. Whether you are a fifteen-year-old girl or a fifty-year-old woman, it’s never too late to learn to defend yourself.

Aside from adding to my arsenal of personal experiences from which I can draw for my books, gun safety and personal protection have practical application that I hope never to have to use. But the reality is that there are dangers we all face every day.

If I can be a part of making the world a safer place for women by training them to be prepared to protect themselves, I’m all in.

And in response to Jamie Pope’s post yesterday about the steamy hunks of the big and small screen, I went home after seeing Magic Mike and gave my hubby a big smooch and told him how much I appreciate him. Because when it comes down to loving our heroes, don’t you agree? There’s nothing like the real thing.

What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done in the name of research?

Top Three Reasons to Take and Teach Workshops

How is it Tuesday already? PJ Sharon here, bringing to you my top three reasons to both take writing workshops and give them. Of course my main reason is that I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning.

I also think we owe it to ourselves and others to pay it forward when we learn something useful. After all, sharing ideas is the reason we write.

I just finished taking an online workshop called YA Heroes Journey, offered by my YARWA buddies Jennifer McAndrews and Linda Gerber. It was excellent! I loved how they were able to give me immediate feedback on my WIP and help me to improve my grasp of plot, character archetypes, and the deeper motivations of my hero and heroine.

Over the past six years, I have taken dozens of online workshops through RWA’s individual chapters, Savvy Authors, and YARWA (young adult chapter of RWA), and have never been disappointed. In addition to these online workshops, I’ve had the privilege of attending the RWA National convention five times, CT Fiction Fest four times, and a Romantic Times Booklovers Convention for the first time this year. All of these venues offer incredible workshops and endless opportunities for networking—not to mention tons of fun!

 Here are my top three reasons why you should take writing workshops:

1)      To hone your craft. When I began writing down the crazy stories in my head, I had no idea there were so many rules to writing. From point of view and plot, to balancing dialogue and narrative, I felt as if I could study the craft for the rest of my life and barely scratch the surface of all there is to know. I make it a point to take workshops as often as I possibly can.

2)      Feedback on your WIP. This is probably one of the most valuable parts of taking a workshop. So many times, we struggle through the rough patches of our stories and suffer alone, feeling as if we can’t see our work objectively or find the forest through the trees. It’s great to have critique partners, but it’s also good to have objective individuals give you a fresh perspective on your work.

3)      Affordable and focused education. It takes about $30,000 and more than a couple of years of your time to obtain an MFA. During that time, you spend a considerable amount of energy focusing on literary critique of published works, reading and writing poetry, and working to earn grades rather than working on your own projects. Not that this is entirely a bad thing, but if you are planning to write genre fiction, it might not be the best use of your time and resources. The workshops I’ve taken range from $10-$25, are taught by talented and dedicated writers and published authors, and last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month. A very wise and doable investment in my opinion. You can take the workshops you need, when you need them, and take them for a fraction of the cost of college courses.

In addition to all of this fabulous learning, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of teaching. Over the years I’ve taught ice skating and yoga classes, done personal training with individuals and groups, and given workshops on health and fitness related topics. I’ve hesitated to jump into the arena of teaching writing workshops, mainly because I still feel like a newbie in so many ways. It probably doesn’t help that I teach a monthly writing class to a group of teens who constantly make me aware that they are much smarter than I am.

 But after doing a craft corner last year for the CTRWA group about writing fight scenes, I realized that indeed I do have something to offer by way of workshops. I know about martial arts, I know what makes a good fight scene, and I’ve taken a few workshops on the topic. So by popular demand, I’ll be offering my very first workshop, “Fun with Fight Scenes,” at the upcoming CT Fiction Fest conference on May 12th. Other presenters include Kristan Higgins, Jessica Andersen, Toni Andrews, and Jennifer Fusco, just to name a few. We also have the fabulous Sherry Thomas as our keynote speaker. Incidentally, there will be plenty of opportunities to pitch your story to some of the best agents and editors in the business. You won’t want to miss it! 

Here are my top three reasons to give a workshop:

1)      Share knowledge with other writers. If you’ve been working to hone your craft for a few years and have worked hard to complete a few novels, you know a little something about writing. Even if you don’t feel up to the task of teaching “on writing,” I’d bet  there is some area of expertise you could share with your fellow writers that would give them a leg up on their WIP.

2)      Networking. There is no better way to get exposure to new people than to teach a workshop at a conference or online. Getting our faces and our talents in front of industry professionals is an incredible marketing opportunity. If you are in the “business” of writing, setting yourself apart as an expert or authority on a sought after topic is a great way to get some notice.

3)      Public speaking experience. Again, if you are planning a career as a writer, there will be many occasions where you will be required to present yourself publically. Whether it’s pitching your story to an agent or editor, or doing a radio or TV interview, the more experience you have with public speaking, the better prepared you’ll be for whatever opportunities come your way.

 If you haven’t been to a conference in a while (or ever), there is still time to sign up for CT Fiction Fest. I’d love to see you there!

 What was the last workshop you took? Have you ever taught one? I’d love some tips on how to make mine stand out.

Review of Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas, and Touchy Subjects

Hello, Scribe Fans, Katy Lee here. I am not only a writer, but I am also a speaker. When I stand in front of a crowd it is usually to share the message that everybody matters. And I typically do this through sharing my experience of my daughter’s adoption from six years ago. So, imagine my surprise when Zondervan Publishing sent me Gary Thomas’s latest book to review, titled Every Body Matters. I thought what a great title and dived right in.

However, once I started reading, I realized the author was on a mission. It would seem the goal Gary Thomas had in writing this book was to link a strong spirit with a strong body, and to prove you can’t have one without the other. They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but I had no idea it was more painful too. Thomas does not sugarcoat anything in this book. He sets out to prove Socrates’s idea that all exercise and no study creates only half a man, just as all study and no exercise also creates half a man—a soft, overly sensitive man who isn’t tough enough to address real life.

I’ll be honest, I felt like I was being attacked. And I exercise on a regular basis. (But I do love my sweets!) This book is not for the faint-hearted, and in fact, after doing some research, I found many people raised their eyebrows at Thomas’s proposal to write this book. They knew it had the potential to make a lot of people mad. Especially people who stand up in front of crowds to teach and inspire.

And I was one of those mad people—until I reached a part in the book where he introduces a woman who gained a lot of weight during the pregnancies of her three children. The third one was adopted.

It hit home for me because I was the same way. You’re not supposed to gain weight with adopted children. That is supposed to be a perk for adopting, but it wasn’t for the woman in the book. And it wasn’t for me. So, I had to ask myself, why? Was the reason I gained so much weight after the adoption because of something I didn’t want to address in real life?

Maybe Gary Thomas was on to something after all.

The whole adoption process and the trials of bringing a confused five year old into an already established home upset my spirituality, and then my healthy lifestyle. I was under a lot of stress, experiencing many disappointments when things weren’t going the way I had envisioned. All of this led to my comforting fallback—food. And lots of it. I didn’t care about my physical diet, which led to not caring about my spiritual one as well.

Every Body Matters explores how positively addressing our physical condition can lead to a fortified soul better able to serve and love others. And looking back through the pages, I can see where Gary Thomas did this, even if it was a hard pill to swallow. We can’t strengthen our souls without strengthening our bodies. I get it, but it was a risky thing for him to write. Then again, I guess it’s called a risk for a reason.

As a writer, I wonder if I could take such a risk. Could I be so bold in my writing if there was a chance I would lose my reader’s loyalty?

The Unlocked Secret: I know my writing will not please everyone. It is impossible to do so. But, I suppose, if it is a matter of feeling strongly about something, and I have the facts to back it up, I would have to follow my heart and write it. But, I would be sure to write it with a high level of respect. No one likes to be talked down to or berated.

Question: How would you approach a touchy topic in your writing? Do you worry you might offend someone? Or do you follow your heart?