Monday, November 10, 2008

Quaking in my Boots

I've been listening to motivational tapes as I drive. And since I've spent so much time in my car, I've heard plenty of them. One word has stuck in my head..."courage."

You see, most of us think of courage as something we call on when in dangerous situations. But motivational masters remind us that courage is an emotion we rely on every day of our lives.

For example, this weekend I was on a panel at the Jewish Book Festival. Up on that stage I felt tiny and totally inadequate. To my right were Jody Feldman who wrote The Gollywhopper Games, which won a Midwest Booksellers Association award, and Bruce Jay Friedman, who was representing his new book of short stories, Three Balconies. Mr. Friedman's other works have been translated into movies and stage. You might be familiar with them--Splash! with Tom Hanks, and The Heartbreak Kid.

Ever feel like a poseur? Someone who doesn't belong? I sure did. I sat there, working hard at looking calm and wondering how I could disappear. I mean, what right did I have to be there?

Well, the right I had was that the Jewish Book Festival chose me. And once I accepted their kind offer, I was in for the long haul. I had to do my best. And I did.

Afterwards I signed books and spoke to the crowd. One lady praised my poise and asked me if I'd come speak to her group.

Poise? Ma'am, I was shaking like the metaphorical bowl full of jelly. I was totally freaked out.

Good thing I'd listened to a lot of motivational tapes. Courage: It isn't just for special occasions. Lately I feel like I've had to dip into my bag of courage a lot and pull up the sheerest scarves of it--praying I can cover myself enough to keep on keeping on. At times like this, I try to remind myself, "I'm in this for the long haul. I have to do my best. I'm just what I am. I'm only who I am. And I pray that's enough."


Camille Minichino said...

Now you know how I feel every day, Joanna.

I like your perspective of courage -- I try to remind myself that we all have something to offer, and should respect those who think we do.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Joanna, were you a writer who started off thinking you could just hide away in your offices and write? I was! The reality is that we have to get out and promote ourselves and our work. And, yes, sometimes that takes courage. It's amazing how someone as terrified as I used to be at getting in front of crowds now comes off as being at ease with it! And I've done it long enough that I've mostly convinced myself. In fact, now it's usually fun.

Betty Hechtman said...

I can relate to the need for courage. Every time I've gone in a bookstore and offered to sign stock, I've been worried they won't let me sign or they'd ask to see my driver's license.

Jody Feldman said...

So. If it makes you feel any better, I was the one who felt intimidated. Bruce, as you said. You, you with all that speaking experience. And there I was for the first time without any notes to read from. You were an old pro. And funny! Wow! It was great meeting you.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I never expected to sit in my office, Linda. And yes, I've made my living by public speaking. But when you are a speaker, someone PAYS to have you come speak. When you are an author, you are putting out your work and hoping someone will see it as worthy. As a speaker, my job is to get up there and speak. As an author, I've done my job, but now I have to shill it!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Well, Jody, I wish we'd had more time to get to know each other! Maybe we can now, eh? You did a great job--and the huge line asking for autographs must have been a super feeling. I can't wait to read your book. I'm in awe that you managed to write in the voice of a 12-year-old boy.

On second thought...I don't want to even imagine myself as a 12-year-old boy. Too painful!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Camille and Betty, we can only remind ourselves that 85% of the US population wishes they had written a book. So we're that lucky 15%. We must leaven our courage with a pinch of sense of accomplishment.