Monday, March 4, 2013

The Deep End of the Audience

I am giving two "author talks" in the next few weeks, so I started reflecting on the best and the worst talks I've seen in my life. Authors are not always good speakers.

Will I give the same talk twice? I saw David Morrell, the author give two talks within six months about the current state of the publishing industry. Each sixty minute talk was totally different, but then again the publishing industry changes every hour. I've also seen Alisa Valdes. She is very inspirational and always speaks her mind. Every time I hear her, she's completely fresh.

I can't guarantee that I won't repeat the same jokes within the same sixty minutes span.

As for the talk that inspired me the most, Jacqueline Michaud spoke at Southwest Writers and literally changed my life. Ten years later, I might be getting some of the details wrong, but I can still remember the gist of her talk. She had written a book published to poor reviews and worse sales. The publisher was asking for the advance back. She was getting a divorce and working as a subsitute teacher while living in a trailer in some cold Wisconsin town. In court papers, her soon-to-be-ex was asking for custody and apparently claiming she was an unfit mother because she was spending all her time writing. She then got a phone call. It was Oprah. Oprah made her the first author in Oprah's book list and "The Deep End of the Ocean" became a best seller. I think about that story every time I sit down to write.

Steve Hodel wrote Black Dahlia Avenger and I saw him in LA at the "Men of Mystery." He started by talking about the "Black Dahlia" case, for a few minutes and then abruptly shifted topics to discussing his father. I was actually getting a little bored. Why are you talking about your crazy father? He then described going up to the attack and finding a piece of evidence that suggested his father might have beeen the real killer. Everyone in the audience let out an audible gasp.

I'm not going to list the worst authors by name. I did hear someone you've heard of speak at "Men of Mystery" in LA. His talk was so bad that the other other authors commented on their webpages and it made national news. He's still on the best seller list but the controversy hurt his sales for a week or so.

Some local authors have done ten minute talks for sixty minute slots while others have provided only five minutes of information over the course of an hour.

As for me, my best and worst talks have occurred at Southwest Writers. I'll save those stories for another time. Hopefully, I will inspire someone in the room to write a blog about me....

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