Reading and Speaking: A Brief Trip to Atlanta

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High-tech communications equipment at Ivy Hall. I should have done the reading through this.

Last week, I went down to Atlanta. I’d been invited by SCAD Atlanta to talk to a couple of classes, do a reading and a book signing.

(If, for some reason, you’ve never bought my books drop dead you can check them out here or bug your local bookstore.)

I couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve been to Atlanta other than for airport transfers.

I was only in town for a couple of days, so I didn’t get to experience much except The Georgian Terrace (nice hotel; I got a suite), Empire State South (refined Southern cooking), and, of course, Atlanta traffic. Oh, and I obviously enjoyed a few jokes at the expense of the local football team.

It had also been a while since I’d done any public speaking. Doesn’t come up as much now that I’m not working, though I guess I could go stand on the corner and try it. Lot of other people do that in New York. I did speak to a class at Packer in Brooklyn, back in January, but that was an intimate affair and did not involve the psychological mind field that is a public reading and book signing.

The short version is this. For a book reading, you not only have to deal with your typical nervousness about public speaking (which can vary tremendously). You also have to deal with the prospect of a completely empty room. Or, slightly worse, a room with two people in it. Another writer and I once did a talk at the Louisiana Book Festival and we were related to the six people who showed up. And even if a handful of people do show up, there’s no guarantee you’ll sell any books to sign.

I’m happy to report, though, that the reading at SCAD’s Ivy Hall was packed and we managed to sell and sign a handful of books. Even better, the audience asked lots and lots of questions. If you ever go to a reading — especially if it’s not a world-famous author — please ask questions. It makes the writer just a little bit less of a neurotic mess. It also helps when they do a post-even write-up.

Ivy Hall, by the way, is a great venue, a beautiful old house. It FEELS like a place you should discuss writing. In fact, SCAD holds quite a number of its writing classes there and it’s also where I talked to students earlier in the day. The first class was more of a business writing class, so we talked about marketing and advertising quite a bit. The second was a creative writing workshop, so we talked about the history of the taco. Just joking. We talked about creative writing. What I particularly liked about that class was that Chris Bundy is teaching his students to bust through genres (when I was in creative writing classes, there was only one acceptable genre in workshops: literary fiction).

Thanks to SCAD and Catherine Ramsdell for the invite — and to the students for making me feel welcome.

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