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CJ’s First Full Speaking Engagement

November 3, 2010
The flier posted around campus. Way cool.
Yes, I’m a nerd.

Or… otherwise known as “Can You Shut Her Up, Please?”

All kidding aside, I think I did pretty good. I worry I talk too much when answering a question. And yes, there are times I start in one direction (because I’m so sure the background to my answer is key) and I wind up forgetting what the eff someone asked me because I took too long to get to the answer.

The Jacksonville folks rolled out the red carpet for me and really made me feel like a superstar. I never had to lift a finger. Shelly Howard was really the driving force behind getting me there and it was a joy to speak with her and hear the enthusiasm pour from her.

Dr. Brannon dressed as Sookie and me
with my big cheesy grin

The day started with Dr.Brannon and I talking in her office, getting to know each other better. Or, as I like to think of it, someone in charge making sure I wasn’t a complete whack-job who might embarrass the school. She and I are near the same age and it was a joy to see a professor so excited about the topics she teaches. I only hope my own kids are as lucky to have teachers like her when they go to college.

Next, I went to the auditorium to meet with someone from the school paper. Only they weren’t there and decided it would be best to take notes on the question and answer session with the students and base the article on what we covered. Pretty smart way to kill two birds with one stone.

Lauren and Dr.Brannon

Lauren, as I later found out, will be writing the article. As soon as I get a link I’ll post it for you. Someone took pictures of me slouching up on the small carpeted stage while I was yaking, so be prepared, they are probably not flattering pictures. Every time the flash went off my only thought was “Crap, I think my mouth was open again.”

We had somewhere between 30 and 40 people show up — no one fell asleep and the yawns were more a result of the pizza served for lunch (I hope), so I think that means I kept everyone’s attention.

There were a gamut of questions asked, from “What is urban fantasy?” “How did you become a writer?” “How did you get published?” to “Why do you think female authors write about vampires?” There were many more, after all, it did last about 40-45 minutes, but it went by in a blur.

Hopefully Lauren was paying attention because I’m not sure what all my answers were. Think it was the adrenaline rush 😉

Shelly and I at the Halloween Festival.

Next, we went right to the Vampire Lit class and I wolfed down some french fires and diet coke as politely as possible while answering more questions in class. The students directed the way the class progressed and I think the professor would have been happier if we covered more scholarly on-topic questions, but overall, any participation was great.

Again, I don’t remember most of what I said. Funny how the mind works. I can’t be the only speaker who gets up and talks on the fly and can’t recall all the ins and outs afterwards, right? People laughed when I tried to joke and no one laughed at me, I’m sure I would have recognized such behavior from my youth, so I’m guessing it went well.

I went back to the hotel for a bit after the class, caught up on phone calls and emails and then BAM, I was back at school for the Halloween Festival. It was a small turnout according to the organizers, but I enjoyed it. I got to speak with lots of students one on one and really had a nice time.

Ryan working his plastic fangs to snag an apple!

They had lots of food, bobbing for apples (while wearing vamp fangs, which was a hoot), wiffle ball aka Twilight-inspired baseball (clever!), a pinata filled with candy and a costume contest.

I wasn’t sure how I’d go over at the school – some nobody newbie-writer coming in to speak, but the students were so warm and inviting I never felt awkward. Yes, I will probably talk to a wall if left to my own devices long enough, but no one blatantly walked away and snubbed me, so I’m calling it a success.

Hey, you have to realize I’m used to cold calling and selling myself for work in potentially  negative environments. This was a breeze in comparison.

Kids from one of the adult students
and Mandi to the right.

Oh – I almost forgot the best part – giving away my books! The first person who won, Mandi, was incredible. I think she unwittingly set the tone for everyone else. When her ticket number was called she jumped from her seat like a cattle prod zapped her and shouted “Oh my god, I won! I won!” and came running down the side isle.

Of course, I said the only witty thing that popped into my mind “Come on down! You’re the next contestant on The Price is Right!” Her reaction made the whole thing worth while.  I felt worthy. I felt like my book was a real prize and she was beyond happy to receive it. The other winners were all gracious and every one of them wanted me to sign their copy.

Shelly and the losing pinata.

Some enterprising young men opted for me not to personalize it and I joked it may be worth something in ten years and they could sell it on ebay (or give it as a gift). A few students stayed and talked with me after the speaking part in the auditorium and I was told if anyone wants to talk with you rather than running for the door then you did a good job.

We gave away more copies at the festival later and again, Mandi won another prize (not my book this time). I think her good karma came back to her that day – she gave me a gift with her positive energy and was a winner again only hours later.

Alissa and Leann? Forgot a lot of
names, someone help me out.

I went back to my hotel wrung out and tired. It was a fabulous day and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I’m still shocked at how fast it all went by. I soaked in the tub and talked to hubby for a bit before winding down enough by 11 to get to sleep. Incredible how the rush keeps you going even when you’re more than ready for bed.

The next day Shelly picked me up and drove me to the airport. We chatted some more about writing and she shared something with me: after our brainstorming at the restaurant on the night of my arrival, she had so many ideas churning she sat down and started to write. How exciting!

I’m really enjoying this new career. Being able to reach out and encourage others is an aspect I never expected when I started writing last year. I’m still awkward when it comes to accepting praise or being told I inspire someone, but be patient with me. I still don’t think what I’ve done is extraordinary and I still think everyone can write if they want to.

Thought this one was funny, had to share.

It takes drive and dedication to improve your craft. And a thick skin to realize not everyone will like your work. No worries. I’m proof enough that if you write it, they will enjoy it.

Someone out there will, I guarantee it. The odds are with ya 😉

Wishing you all a great week,


8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2010 11:41 am

    Amazing. Our little C.J., a published author, right here in Avonlea. Oh, sorry, I was channeling Anne of Green Gables.

    But, congrats on the speaking engagement. Treasure it because of lot of Jersey girls’ idea of a speaking engagement is answering detectives’ questions.

    Hope you do let success go to your head and don’t forget us little people on your way to the top.

    • November 3, 2010 12:41 pm

      Greg, I seriously lost it when I read that bit about answering detectives’ questions. LMAO!! Is it okay if I take the cool corner office when she finally catches up to you and “brains” you with something heavy? I promise to leave up all of your wall decorations. Thank, buddy…

    • November 3, 2010 2:34 pm

      Nah, no worries, Jimmy. I can take it and dish it out 😉

      Thanks, Greg (I think). And I laughed at the jersey girl talking to the detective part too. I’m afraid to admit that has happened to me a time or two, but it was never my fault, I swear.

  2. November 3, 2010 12:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing, C.J. I’m taking mental notes on all of this trailblazing stuff that you are doing in order to make certain that I maintain the high standard that you are setting!! Seriously though, as writers, we dream about one day having the opportunities that you are having right now. It is making it easier for the rest of us to picture us in the same position. Very, Very cool.

    • November 3, 2010 2:38 pm

      I really did have a blast. I’m getting an official “press kit” together now in the hopes I can reach more readers by speaking at other events too… hey, you never know. It may work.

      Truly “selling” myself when I’m up in front of a group, never would have thought I’d be doing it with my own work and not for a company. It’s addicting once you get past the fear of sounding like an idiot.

  3. george allwynn permalink*
    November 7, 2010 10:53 am

    Thanks for all the photos and such a play by play of your day…. I enjoyed it much — it was almost like being there! Oh, and I don’t think your grin is cheesy – when you smile, it lights up your face, making your smile one of your most valued assets… It will be interesting to compare your next author talk with your first one. I am thrilled the first one was such a success! You needed some good stuff happen to you, with all that you are going through….


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