Squawk Radio

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Christina Breathes a Sigh of Relief

In the last months, some people who shall remain unnamed actually suggested that I whined — a lot — about giving the luncheon speech at the Romance Writers’ conference. But this is, of course, nonsense. I do not whine. I express my concern.

I was just REALLY concerned. The first conference I went to, in Dallas in 1987, the speaker was Mary Higgins Clark. If you ever get the chance to hear her, run, do not walk, to the nearest chair, park yourself and listen hard, because she’s the best speaker I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard some good ones. She told the story of her life — married young, five children, widowed, writing in between life experiences (“Grist for the mill,” she called it), finally getting published at the age of (if I remember correctly) fifty and of course going on to be a #1 New York Times Bestseller. She made me realize that most people don’t get their first book published, that writing takes training, work and dedication, and that maybe I’d never be a #1 New York Times bestseller — maybe I’d never get published — but if I loved the craft, I had to try. She inspired me and I’ve never forgotten that seminal moment.

Consequently, I’ve realized how important the job of speaker at the RWA conference is — the speaker can literally change a writer’s attitude and life.

So when I got the call to speak at RWA — put yourself in my shoes. Imagine how flattered I was. Imagine how terrified I was, because I’m really a frightened public speaker. And no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t say no — being invited to speak at RWA is a huge honor. So I spent six months being REALLY concerned, writing the speech, practicing the speech, polishing the speech, trying to find a desert island with no phone or internet … you know what helped me most?

My friends. They let me whine — er, be really concerned — they told me over and over I would do a great job, they scarcely suggested I was being incredibly self-absorbed (well, maybe they did, but I was too self-absorbed to notice), and at the conference, one of our dear Squawkers, J.Perry, gave me one of the most touching tributes I’ve ever had. She said, “I love your work so much you could burp the whole speech and I’d still enjoy it.”

She brought a tear to my eye. Okay, it was a tear of laughter, but I do treasure the compliment.
So thanks to everyone who encouraged me, and thanks to everyone who heard me and praised me so kindly afterward.

Has anyone else ever survived an ordeal that required nerves of steel and a whole lot of help from your friends? What did your friends do to get you through?
Christina Dodd, 4:32 PM