PhotobucketI have long been fearful of public speaking. When I had to stand up before the board of education several years ago, to fight for a program about to get the ax, I was a shaking, quivering mess.

Since that time, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to present myself to the public — online, here. But that’s public exposure, not public speaking.

As the date for the release of The Last Will of Moira Leahy approached, I was a little concerned. Would the shaking, quivering me come back for an encore, or had I conquered my stage fright? I had a book talk and signing at my local Barnes & Noble the day the book came out. The store was packed; I learned later that 150 people were there to hear my presentation. Not only that, a television crew appeared to get a clip of me and the event for the evening news. I think I did shake, a little, but I got through the television interview. What I really enjoyed, though, was speaking in front of a crowd of people who wanted to know something more about my novel and the process of writing.

I’ve had the chance to speak with nearly a dozen groups since then–book clubs, writing groups, and other interested parties–and every time I step in front of an audience, the process becomes easier. This past weekend, I presented my first workshop at a well-regarded and -attended writers’ conference, The Muse and the Marketplace, in Boston. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for regression, with authors like Brunonia Barry in attendance–actually sitting in a seat before me, listening to me speak (ack!)–but there was no quivering, no shaking. Instead, I felt confident and had a lot of fun with my group.

This spring will bring a few other events, including more book clubs and a Writing Matters writers’ panel this May with fellow novelists Randy Susan Meyers and Shelley Stout in New Jersey. I can honestly say I look forward to all of them.

So what’s come over me? How did I manage the about-face?

I don’t know for sure. But I remember reading an interview months and months ago at the fab Shrinking Violet Promotions blog, with author–and introvert–Maggie Stiefvater. In that interview Maggie, who not only writes but also plays the bagpipes, said:

I was a professional musician. And I used to get the whole sweaty palms shaky limbs nerves thing going on when I was sixteen, seventeen. But I found out something really quickly: you get in front of an audience with your instrument and you fake the smile and the confidence, they can’t tell the difference. And one day, I went out there, and I realized my palms were dry. I just threw my pipes on my shoulder and busted out my tunes and I could do it all day in front of the Pope and throngs of millions. It took a bit of time before I didn’t need an instrument in my hand to be brave, but by then, I knew the secret. It’s pretending to be the person you want to be. And I promise you, if you do it long enough, you will be that person.

Project confidence. Pretend confidence. And pretty soon you’ll be confident.

Really? Can it be that easy? Isn’t that sort of like brain-washing?

Erm, yes. I think it may really be that simple. I wouldn’t have bet that my nerves were conquerable, but I would’ve been wrong.

Are you an introvert? How do you manage stage fright? Please feel free to share any tips you may have in comments.


About Therese Walsh

Therese Walsh co-founded Writer Unboxed in 2006. Her second novel, The Moon Sisters, was named a Best Book of 2014 by Library Journal and BookRiot. Her debut, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, sold to Random House in a two-book deal in 2008, was named one of January Magazine’s Best Books, and was a Target Breakout Book. She's never been published with a lit magazine, but LOST's Carlton Cuse liked her Twitter haiku best and that made her pretty happy.