I had a fantastic time last Saturday presenting at the Norfolk (NE) Public Library Literature Festival. The organizers were supremely hospitable—down to the fact that afterwards, they gave each of us presenting authors goodie bags full of fun and tasty Nebraska-made products as thank-you gifts! The attendees ranged from ten-year-old students who had traveled for over two hours to participate in the day, to teachers and librarians, to community members who had been attending the festival for most of its 21 years of existence.
I felt VERY warmly welcomed. I received many compliments on the student writing workshop and the larger group presentation that I gave—the audience even laughed in all the right places! I signed many copies of Turn Left at the Cow. I even ended up being featured on local TV. Everybody who was there treated me like royalty, and helped to make it a great day for me.
But here’s the secret I’ve learned over many years of presenting at book festivals and other big events: it’s SO special when the other people there treat you like a star. But the most important factor in whether I have a good day or not is my own attitude.
I spend a lot of my work time home alone with a cat and a computer. Being the center of attention can quickly become overwhelming. Even when I’m just attending a big event and not presenting at it, it’s easy for me to go into overload mode, and retreat into my own head.
So now, before I show up for any big book event (whether I’m a presenter or an audience member), I give myself a little pep talk. I focus on being enthusiastic, energetic, friendly, and flexible. Even if it turns out that something goes wrong (nothing did in Nebraska, but that was the exception rather than the rule), I remind myself to roll with it. What I’ve found is that if I bring in positive energy, in almost every case, positive energy comes back to me from the other people I meet at the event.
But if I go into the event expecting to be stressed, overwhelmed, or too shy to meet anyone, then that’s exactly the outcome I’ll see. So I’ve learned to think positive. That attitude can’t fix an airplane delay or a dead microphone, but I’ve found that it CAN make an amazing number of problems less stressful!