talks we would give new authors before their public appearances through the wall between our offices.
"The hard part is done - you've written the book! Who better to talk about it now than you?"
"Remember the people in the audience are just people. Don't worry about impressing them - just talk to them like they're your friends and colleagues, in a friendly way about the things you care about, and you won't go wrong."
"If you lose your place or your train of thought, it's not the end of the world. That's why there's water at the podium. You can always look to me and I'll encourage you."
Before the appearances we would run around busily double checking logistics and arrangements and hold our own butterflies in, praying "please lord make this event go smoothly," often not relaxing until the final question was answered and the last book signed.
So how thrilling was it for me to come to Laura's NYC book reading at Swift's for her contribution to Gina Barreca's collection MAKE MINE A DOUBLE: Why Women Like Us Like to Drink (Or Not)
and see her in action on both sides of the fence?
First, there were the hundreds of Santas at the bar to contend with - Laura said "The manager just told me it's Santa Con (the NYC downtown pub crawl where those dressed as Santa get a free drink) - isn't it crazy?" Crazy, but also fun - a Santa wearing a sombrero careened into the reading with a happy "Feliz Navidad!"
There were 10 contributors slated to read in a back room - Laura buzzed around making sure the lineup was set, the books were being sold, the right people were meeting. Fanning herself in the heat of the room she said to me "I'm nervous! I have to go UP THERE!"
"UP THERE" was a raised pulpit - the bar is in a converted church. She would be looking down at all of us while reading. "Preach it, baby!" I cackled, until I realized she was serious about being nervous. "I'm used to being behind the scenes," she said. "This is totally different!"
"Hey, aren't you writing about facing fears? You should have some good advice for her!" Laura's longtime friend said. "Come on - say something helpful!"
My mind went blank. Decades as a publicist, months visiting Toastmasters, and I didn't know what to say to Laura that she didn't already know, that wouldn't put pressure on her.
After a few minutes listening to introductions, I whispered to her, "Read slowly. Slower than you think you should." It was the best advice I could come up with. Laura's naturally enthusiastic and a fast talker. Slowing down helps steady the nerves, keeps you breathing. It's easy to remember. Please lord, make this go smoothly for Laura.
And what do you think happened? Of course, Laura read her piece, "Mom's Club" beautifully! She was warm, funny, relaxed, completely composed. We all whooped and hollered. I was so inspired, seeing her up there, going from offstage to on. Stepping out of her comfort zone, and blossoming.
There's a Jonathan Swift quote hanging over the pulpit - "May You Live All the Days of Your Life." A great toast for all of us as we greet the New Year.
|Laura Rossi, reading at Swift's|
"May You Live All the Days of Your Life"