Squawk Radio

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Xtina — Torn Between Delight and Terror

On Sunday morning, the phone rang. The caller ID showed Geralyn Dawson. You all know Geralyn’s a great author (coming November 29, HER SCOUNDREL), but she’s also on the National Board of Directors for Romance Writers of America. Despite this show of maturity, Geralyn’s one of my best friends. (RWA is an organization made up of 9500 writers with an annual conference where members gather for three days of seminars, schmoozing and awards.)

So when the phone rang, I grabbed the phone ready for a gossip, but it wasn’t Geralyn on the other end. A stranger said, “Hi, Christina, this is Gayle Wilson, the president of RWA. We'd like to issue an invitation —"

I thought, "I'm going to kill that rat Geralyn, what horrible job did she volunteer me for?"

“— To be our luncheon speaker at the 2006 RWA conference in Atlanta."

The luncheon speaker? Holy smokes, this is a big deal! This is one of the centerpieces of the conference! I’d be speaking to and inspiring 2100 published and unpublished writers about their hopes, their dreams, their ambitions! You can imagine my first thought was how honored I was ...

Okay, actually my first thought was "Is Gayle *$#%@ crazy?" and "I'm going to kill that rat Geralyn."

Because, ladies, public speaking is my phobia.

Of course, I’m not alone. Fear of public speaking is the most common phobia. People are less afraid of dying than of public speaking.

I consider this eminently sensible.

When I realized I was nervous about public speaking, I decided to face the fear head-on. As a senior in high school, I took a speech class … from a guy who despised people who were afraid of public speaking. It was much akin to taking swimming from a coach who drowned his students. I lived through it (unfortunately) and went from nervous to phobic. For years I didn’t speak in public.

Then I got published. Within a week, I was asked to speak at my local RWA meeting. I said, “Are you crazy? You know I don’t do that.” And the coordinator said, “Oh, but it’ll be different now.” HAHAHAHAHA! In fact, getting published hadn’t changed my personality, but it had changed people’s perception of me.

Eventually someone invited me to give a speech so far in advance I thought the day would never come and said yes. And I lived in terror for the six months before. So I decided once again to tackle my phobia. On the theory that exposure would lessen the terror, for a year I said yes to everyone who asked me to speak.

A couple of things happened during that year. I got good at giving speeches — because of my fear, I spent days writing a speech, and before I spoke I practiced over and over until I almost lost my voice. Because of my program, I cut down the time of panic before a speech from six months to a few weeks.

A lot of you speak in public without any worry at all. A lot of you quake in your shoes, too. And maybe some of you are scared to death but manage to speak anyway. Reveal your secrets, tell us your techniques!

Because being the 2006 RWA luncheon speaker WAS too great an honor to pass up. I said yes.

Now I have to write a speech and practice it. And lose weight and get in shape. And have a face lift. And liposuction. And get taller.

See you in Atlanta.
Christina Dodd, 12:44 AM