Yesterday I celebrated the launch of my latest book, The Portland House. It was a long awaited celebration after the online release of the book on January 23rd. (The publisher wanted lag time to insure that the books made it to me before the launch.)
Now, I've done a ton of these presentations with Dirty Shirt over the past 3.5 years, but I still go into them a bit of a nervous wreck. I've never liked giving speeches or presentations, but as I've been forced into doing them for Dirty Shirt, I've become much better at it. I didn't say more comfortable, but better.
Plus, I'd done the Dirty Shirt spiel a dozen times or more, so could almost recite it in my sleep. But this was a new book and new stories, so I wasn't sure how I'd do.
Before the signing I was tired and nervous. I tried to take a brief nap but it was mostly futile. I did a little yoga (now, there's a picture) and it seemed to help take some of the tension out of my body - always good.
I always use the first 15 minutes of a signing to do a meet and greet. It gets my conversational tone going and sort of serves to warm me up.
So, when I started with my introduction, I was nervous. I thanked a few folks and then gave an intro into the first story. When I started reading, my tempo was choppy and shaky. Within the first minute though, I got my first laugh from the audience.
And everything changed.
There is something about that first laugh, or that first gasp, or that first audience reaction that reminds me that I am okay. It is a reminder that they are listening and genuinely hoping to be entertained. That they are rooting for me. Then, when I get the second and third laughs, I settle in. I'm in the zone and back to breathing natural and reading like I hope to read.
At the end of the last reading, I kind of didn't want it to end - which is totally weird, given my feelings 15 minutes earlier. I do get a bit of a rush by people responding positively to my work. It is humbling and makes me grateful I get to do what I am doing.
To write is a gift, to read and get audience feedback is privilege.
And I am glad I get to do it.
Thank you to each and every one of you who showed up to help me celebrate my work. It meant the world to me.