Five lessons learned as a Speaker/Guest Author at a Lit Festival…

All learned the very hard way, so you don’t

By Sherry Carroll, AKA the Shiny Happy Sherry

LESSON ONE.

Remember, it can always get worse…

And

If they offer you a chair, take it…

If they don’t offer you a chair, don’t forget to ask for one.

This was my first public speaking event (as a writer) and the first time EVER doing a reading of one of my books, Even Rock and Roll has Fairy Tales: the Flight of the Sherry Fairy,with a QA and a book signing after; and standing up on stage all that time, without being able to move around much, because you are nervously trying to juggle a book in order to read it out loud to a room full of people, is not as easy as it sounds, especially in high (ish) heels.

My knees/legs were so sore the next day I could barely walk.

These things can be exhausting, so remember to sit down whenever you get the opportunity, because there won’t be many.

And don’t wear heels.

Not even low ones.

And if the auditorium is large ask everyone to squish in together in the middle before you start so they can all hear you properly, or you will end up having to whip your head back and forth to play the entire room, so many times, by the end you could suffer from a severe case of whiplash.

Or worse…

If they won’t get you one, they probably really aren’t very nice people, and have no business running an event like this, but I can’t imagine a scenario in which such a thing would occur.

Unless of course, you have somehow managed to slip through a rift in the space time continuum, into the violently churning vortex of some sort of multiverse type situation, filled with unlimited, unexplored, new dimensions, and after swirling around for what feels like an eternity in a lightless, airless void, were spit out into one which was an exact parallel of ours, except chairs do not exist.

Which is probably a lot less fun than, and way scarier, and a lot more dangerous, than your favorite sci fi/ adventure / fantasy books would lead you to believe.

Bummer.

Told you things could always be worse...

In which case, good luck with all of that, and try not to die if you can avoid it.

LESSON TWO

Be prepared, mentally and physically. For ANYTHING, because anything can happen, and usually does.

But don’t let that scare you!

If you get invited to do an event, you should try, even if you’ve never done one before. Don’t let that stop you. The only way to find out if you are any good at something, is to try it, and the only way to get better at something is to practice. Even Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run every time.

For example, if you are scheduled to do more than one event there is only one thing is an absolute certainty; no-one you know and invited, and want to impress, will show up to see any of the wildly successful, popular, well attended ones that received nothing but rave reviews.

However, if you host even one event which is dismal, desolate, agonizing, empty and soul-destroying, it’s positively guaranteed that at least one person, if not everyone you know, will turn up eventually.

How can I be so sure of this?

Personal experience, my friends.

For example:

Even though the first two events I hosted went well, the third was a complete DISASTER. The only person who attended was me, and a single staff member with naught but a dish rag in her hand and pity festering in her soul, and that was only because she was working, so she had no choice.

One other lovely person did drop in for a short time, even though she was speaking a language neither of us knew, or could even begin to identify, who was not even in the right building, just hopelessly lost, thoroughly confused and only there for lack of anywhere else to go, or anything better to do.

She obviously had no idea at all who we were, or what was our reason for being and why? And exactly what the point of all this supposed to be again anyway.

(I wasn’t even sure myself anymore) but she was far too polite to bail on this tiny titanic when she had the chance. Bless her heart. Wherever she may be.

I can also state with 100 percent certainty that, even if your event does turn out to be the saddest, most tragic, most humiliating failure in the history of workshops (or just felt that way to you), the best thing you can do is just say “Meh so what?”

And have a marvelous time anyway. It happens to the best of them. Just keep reminding yourself when things seem hopeless.

It’s not a bad life, its just a bad day.

Because (see lesson one) things can always get worse…

Even when I had been reduced to nothing more than a muddy blubbery puddle, because nobody showed up at my event, and I am laying face down on the carpet with nothing better to do for an entire hour but aimlessly roll a number two pencil back and forth across the floor, using only the gentle whistle of my nose as I sob silently, wondering what ever happened to all the number ONE pencils.

Believe me, it can still get worse

Even after I gave up on anybody ever showing up and changed out of my lovely frock and into rumpled pajama pants because, what the hell, there’s nobody here anyway, what difference does it make? My hair was a complete mess anyway and there’s mascara running down my face. I don’t even care, because I lost the will to live 27 minutes ago and at this rate I’m not sure if I will ever find it again.

And yet, it can still get worse…

Because then, and only then, one person I knew finally walked in.

Well, I didn’t know her, I just knew all about her.

My boyfriend’s Ex-girlfriend, someone I really did want to impress.

See?

Told yer so

Remember the vortex?

Doesn’t seem so bad right now does it?

But as humiliating as it was at the time, I survived to tell the tale, and so will you.

So don’t let the pressure get to you, try not to blame yourself if things suddenly and inexplicably go horribly wrong.

Unless it was entirely your own fault, in which case, if there is no one else around for you to pin the blame on, you should just walk (slink) away into the night, looking innocent and whistling tunelessly, to escape safely before anyone notices, muttering to yourself, over and over under your breath, “Meh, so what?”

LESSON THREE

There will be children

No matter how many rules they may make, how many signs they post, no matter how sternly they are warned, or how dire the consequences, or the punishments imagined and never enforced.

If there is food and they know it, they will be there.

If there is no food and they know it, they will come just to complain about it.

No children will be allowed, under any circumstances, and yet, somehow, there they are. They come no matter how bad the weather, or how contagious their disease of the day may be, no matter how inappropriate the content, or unsuitable the venue.

They will cry, but they will not leave, and they will talk, but they will not listen, to you or anyone else, and it will drive you mad. But they are at a book event and they are having a marvelous time and that is a wonderful thing to be a part of.

But you know what the very worst thing is?

Not, all those little children just running wild, misbehaving, ignoring orders, disrespecting authority, saying whatever the hell they like, whenever they feel like it, and doing whatever they bloody well please no matter what anybody says they ought to, wantonly breaking all the rules merrily, not doing as they are told, with zero responsibilities, absolutely no filters or any inhibitions completely fearlessly.

It’s that the books THEY are writing in crayon, and the stories THEY have to tell, are probably more fascinating, more honest, more aware and more important, to them, if no one else, are probably more interesting and entertaining than half of the drek on the shelves of the bookstores today, including mine, and they know it, the little beggars.

And I am so jealous.

LESSON FOUR

Being the warm up act for the Beatles isnt everything it is cracked up to be.

One of the ”Headliners” of the PLT was a renowned author, collector and expert on all things Beatles. He is considered one of the world’s greatest authorities on their work, he was even friends with them, and hung out with them all the time! How cool is THAT on a scale of one to one million? So he is quite the celebrity in his own right and very much in demand at these sorts of events around the world.

Since my first, and most well known of my books, is my memoir about my good old days backstage as a rock and roll teen queen and my 20+ year relationship with Eric Burdon of The Animals, I was thrilled to discover one of my workshops was scheduled to go on at 5 pm, just ahead of his huge production starting at seven.

The whole town was abuzz all week. It was to be the highlight of the festival, they predicted, and they were thrilled to have scored such a prestigious and popular speaker for year one of a brand new literary festival trying to get off the ground, I was so stoked the day of “our “gigs, this was going to be SO great.

I mean who doesn’t love anything about The Beatles? AND we’re in England, so duh, I know, right? easy peasy, lemon squeezy, pip pip cheerio, a little Bobs Your Uncle and soon we would be having it large, cheerful as chips and Happy As Larry, plus, there was nothing else at all to do that night, in the whole of Plymouth. What could possibly go wrong? (see lesson one)

Clearly, we were brought in to shake things up a little bit, add some fun and excitement so things wouldn’t be so bookish and stuffy. So tonight, for one night only, let the mighty Plymouth rock right down to its very foundation. The Sherry Fairy has landed, and we were here to rock this town and rock it upside down.

Stand back because Here come the Shooting Stars, The Superstars, that of which legend is made. Yes, we are the champions my friend, thank you for noticing and, we will, we will ROCK YOU.

Go ahead, break out the air guitar, and kick out the jams to the music in your head, at least until Brian’s solo is over. I don’t mind. I will wait.

Anyhow, the big day comes, and it is electric, this is a no brainer, even if it wasn’t packed, it was certainly going to be full or at the very least, well attended.

The very idea of complete and utter failure even being a remote possibility never once crossed my mind. But somehow. Inexplicably. Fail we did.

Eh, so what?

And in a spectacular fashion, even if I do say so myself! (see Lessons 1 and 3)

Which if you think about it, is not only a tradition, but to be expected on a regular basis, even by the best of them and even applauded in the music biz and that is about as rock and roll as it gets, so does that mean I get to count this as a win? Good enough for me! Beats snatching defeat from the jaws of victory I suppose.

After my event I was completely exhausted and crawled down the stairs to the large auditorium where preparations were well underway for the big Beatles production. Well, at least I still had that to look forward to, that should cheer me up, she said optimistically; desperately hoping it would turn out to be true (alas, once again, see lesson1)

They had food, but they wouldn’t share, even though the only cafe on the premises was closed. All You Need Is Love. my ass! Practice what you preach Brother, it’s what the Fab Four would have wanted. So instead I suffered for my art in the name of St John, Paul, George and Ringo, and so it was all cool by me.

The Beatles team wouldn’t even let ME sit in the auditorium and watch the crew set up for the big show for an hour, just to have something to do while I waited. I thought that was cold considering I was their freaking warm up act.

Then I remembered how well that went, and said eh, fair enough mate.

That hour went on for at least Eight Days a Week, maybe more, I have no idea what was to blame for that, could be the time change, or everybody talking a foreign language, in funny voices, and the money being all weird and all that, and yet somehow NOBODY was here yet. At least audience-wise.

Only dejected crew members, depressed organizers and the full festival staff for the enormous crowds expected to appear, which never materialized and one sad, angry little writer about 110 years old who had clearly never been so insulted in his entire life.

I left before seven, in kind of a hurry, whistling tunelessly, I don’t even know if there was enough of a crowd for them to even bother to do the show at this point, and I was starving, but more importantly I suddenly realized, I better get the hell out of there and fast before anyone (besides me) realized the truth! And what had happened to cause it all to go so horribly wrong on that long hard day’s night. That in just one day of association with The Sherry Fairy, somehow, I had successfully managed to break the freakin’ BEATLES!

May God have mercy on my soul.

See? THS is why we can’t have nice things

Meh, so what?

LESSON FIVE

Eat, Drink and be Merry.

And try not to die, if you can avoid it.

When offered food and/or booze (especially booze) the answer is always “Yes”.

You never know when you are really going to need it.

Especially all alone in the vortex

Thank you Chris, and thanks for reading, all of you who survived to this point.

Well done you!

Hope to see you, or hear from you again, sometime soon.

And very special ‘Thank You’ For the use of the Kiszkiloszki Death Fairy GIF Art.

AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON.COM

Well , what can one say about a gal like me, that hasn’t been said already?

Hey I heard that! Is that any kind of language to use in front of a fairy? There are ladies present

Whadda mean WHERE? Why I ourta…

Now, where was I before I was so RUDELY interrupted?

Oh yeah, we were talking about ME.

At Long Last Sherry Carroll EXPOSED!

Well, it’s about time if you ask me!

You can read all about me RIGHT HERE on this very blog

Which ought to tell you everything you didn’t even know you wanted to know about your truly, and maybe even a little MORE!

Thanks for your time, I hope you enjoyed it and you have any further questions or comments please let me know! Bye for now, Sherry

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30 comments

  1. Oh my gerd, you’re hilarious! Thank you for sharing your experience. If I ever get the opportunity to read or speak at a Writers Event, I will most definitely keep your blog post in the back of my mind, especially rule number one!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I was most amused by this post, especially the idea that things can always get worse. I was presenting once, some complex data and statistics when the power failed. The computer stopped and the white board rolled itself up with a deathly rattle. I was left to stand up front and wing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s quite alright. As a gal who is originally from the deep south who lived up there with the Yankees in Maryland for most of my life, who has been living with an Englishman who works with the Aussies for 35 years, and who spends about a half the year travelling back and forth to London and all around the world my language is pretty much foreign to everyone. Even I don’t know what the heck I am talking about most of the time lol

      Liked by 2 people

      • I would tell you but then I would have to kill you. Not because of any CIA regulations or anything, just to keep from getting rusty. And in order to have a Part Two of this article Five more Things I learned: Number Six Don’t blow your cover

        Liked by 1 person

        • to Kill people? Or survive a Lit festival? lol In both cases, I would recommend trying not to get caught out by making any stupid avoidable mistakes, like leaving your plan at home but I’ve said too much already. what was your home address again? I need it for.. a.. er.. um … research, yeah, that’s the ticket, certainly NOT to silence you for knowing too much.That would just be WRONG and probably inconvenient, as it is almost 2 am here and I am already in my pajamas, plus its snowy outside and I don’t want my hot choccy to get cold. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. So nighty night in going under the blanky until spring. Wake me up f such a thing should ever actually occur someday

          Liked by 1 person

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