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It Helps to Like People: May I Be Your Next Speaker?

8 book covers by this author
The work of 17 years writing.

This week I’ve been spending time thinking about how I want 2024 to shape up. We’ve celebrated New Years after all–well, I slept through it!–and our thoughts go to counting up our joys of the past year and making plans for the new year. I want to take my talks and my books out to even more audiences. I want to find those people who love reading and learning as much as I do. And I want to share the things I’ve learned over the last seventeen years and my eight published books.

Why, you might ask. Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter.

1. Talking to others helps me to connect. I always learn something new. Most people are pleasant and easy to like but I’ve had occasion to meet some others. A saying I’m fond of using in my own head goes like this. “I don’t like that person. I’ve got to get to know them better.” And sure enough, when I take the time to engage people, I invariably have found a new friend and am happier for it.
2. Finding my writing passion in the second part of my life has been like the Grand Finale we used to do in the figure skating carnival when I was a kid. After all the individual numbers and all the applause we received, we would use the whole ice to skate the Grand Finale. Wearing our various costumes we’d start in a single line and skate the length of the ice. We’d then divide into two lines at the far end and perform dozens of intricate moves as though we were parading for the audience. I loved being chosen to lead one of the lines and took great joy in performing the moves as best I could. The skating I did for myself was lovely but the formations we made as a group were spectacular. Being a writer is like that. Writing for myself is wonderful but sharing my words with the world brings smiles to my face and happy tears to my eyes.
3. I am a teacher at heart. My twenty-five years teaching French, Spanish, English and Computer Studies to thousands of teenagers taught me a lot, and I am grateful for it all. Well, maybe not for the few bad things that happened along the way! Here are photos from a library talk I gave when preparing for the Authors and History Cruise I was invited on, and from the actual cruise. Involving my audience is crucial in my sessions and I’ve learned more and more about how to do that with adults.

At Ingersoll Library speaking about The Loyalist’s Luck, the second in the Loyalist trilogy, prior to the cruise.
Authors and History Cruise The Loyalist Trilogy Elaine Cougler Historical Fiction
Elaine on the Authors and History Cruise, October 2015

4. Having a table with books on hand is always a good idea. I put it right at the front and make it the centre of my talk. Usually I’m featuring one of my books, like the last one I published–Maggie--with its unique story of how it came about 25 years after my mother’s death. With Maggie I can talk about my grandmother’s time (born in 1890), the effects of the German Kaiser’s actions in starting WWI on my mother’s family, how my grandmother chose to flout society’s rules for women in the twenties and thirties, and the importance of music in my family through the generations. This last can lead to discussions of school curriculum and the decline of music and art programs over the last years.

With my trilogy I’m set up outside the monthly breakfast meeting of WCDR a few years ago.

5. Talking to other authors is always a joy as we share common goals and some of the same problems. When I go to writing conferences, I always go up and meet the presenters afterwards. Then I go home and write about my experiences. Finally, I send each of those presenters an email with a link to the positive things I’ve written about them on my writing blog. Almost always this works well and I’ve made a new friend. In Vancouver one year I did this and one of the presenters took me to task in the comments after the blog post. She was totally off base and I recalled that she had said that her way of getting attention was to force people to argue with her online. That is totally wrong in my world. What could I do about this nastiness on my blog? I decided to remove my lovely post about her entirely. That took her hurtful comment off as well. Sometimes we just need to be in control.

6. Some of the places I’ve spoken are unique and some can be found in every town. The first place I was asked to go was to a Probus club meeting in my home city just after my first book launch. Speaking to a group of all men was not really a challenge as I had grown up with nine brothers. When I started speaking, however, I had to think quickly. There I was at the podium at one side of the stage and beginning my talk. A man got up from the audience and marched up to the blackboard, did something with the chalk, then turned and went back to his seat. I went on. A couple of minutes later, he did it again. I had been introduced as a former teacher. Never at a loss for words, especially if I could get a laugh, I stopped, looked at the man and said, “There’s one in every class!” The room erupted and the man stayed in his seat after that. Humour can work very well but it’s important to have the audience on your side.

Librarian Susan and I beside her display of my books featured at the time.

7.  Make friends with your local librarian. That person might ask you to speak, chose one of your books for their book club, and be a fountain of answers to questions about historical facts to any writing how-to books they have or to how to get your books on the library’s affiliated book program.  Above, Susan had created a display with two of my books. She and the other staff have been great to have me speak there. I don’t do what some authors do–giving copies of my books to local libraries–but I do keep in touch with them. Libraries are as important as they’ve ever been and perhaps more important.  In Canada we have a program where, if you sign up, there is payment once a year for your books being chosen by library customers. It is called Public Lending Right and I’m a member.

I’ve given you some insights into my writing life and I hope you’ve learned something new. If your group or organization is looking for a speaker please contact me via this website. I create my talks so that they fit the group I’m attending and use my books to complement any topic you might like.

Happy New Year!

PS. Sorry for all the pictures of me in this post!

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