Saturday, 16 June 2012

Can you introduce yourself, please? - Nicola Morgan

I am spectacularly useless at introducing myself. I don't mean saying, "Hello, lovely to meet you." I'm quite reasonably good at that. I mean that thing where you have to introduce yourself at the beginning of a talk or an interview. "Could you tell us who you are and what you do?"

On Saturday I was speaking at a conference on writing in the digital age. At lunch-time, I was interviewed to camera. "Can you start by introducing yourself?"

What did I say? Well, there were a load of things I could have said but did I say any of them?

NO! I said, all meekly and pathetically, "I'm Nicola Morgan and I run a blog called Help! I Need a Publisher!"

WHAT? Help! I Need a Right Good Kick Up the Backside! And a Psychiatrist! Honestly, I do this every time and I drive myself nuts.

What goes on in my brain just before I open my mouth? Am I ashamed of what I do? No, I'm very proud of what I do. Am I confused by how many things I do and how to describe what I "am"? Yes, certainly, but it shouldn't be beyond the wit of woman, especially a writer woman, to come up with a sentence which says what I do without sounding either a non-entity or egotistical.

Writers, do you all have this problem, too? Do you start to cringe when you say out loud the things you've achieved? We want people to know, don't we? And yet it's so very hard to say it.

Do you think we should all work out a suitable sentence and practise saying it in front of the mirror?

If so, what would your sentence be for yourself? Go on, it's your chance to plug yourself!

"Can you introduce yourself, please?"

(By the way, today I'm speaking at a conference for parents, about reading for pleasure. I am going to award myself £2.50 for every time I mention one of my books or something that I do. I'm hoping to be able to afford a cup of coffee on the way home.)

19 comments:

Alison Morton said...

"Good morning." Smiles, pauses. "My name is Alison Morton and I'm here to tell you how my first book, INCEPTIO, an alternative history thriller, reached the shelves at Waterstones and made it to the top 100 paid titles on Amazon.

This was quite a journey, so here's how it began..."

A little ahead of itself, but would that do?

catdownunder said...

Oh I sympathise madly! I absolutely hate it when the person who should be introducing me says something like "This is Cat who really needs no introduction and is here to tell you about what she has done."
Hold it! I do need an introduction because most people in the audience have no idea who I am and I am not there to tell them about what I have done (or have not been so far). I am there to tell them about something else altogether. The person running the event should introduce you - and do it properly. It is rude not to do that.

Fiona Joseph said...

How I agree it's so much nicer if someone introduces you! I do quite a few speaking events and I've taken to preparing a short intro on a bit of paper to give to the person introducing me – stressing only if they *want* to use it. I find it works very nicely :)

Liz Kessler said...

I agree entirely about the cringiness of introducing yourself. I pretty much refuse to do it. At a school event last week, I left a hall full of children in the lurch and waited outside in the corridor while someone fetched the headteacher who had said she would be introducing me.

But when it's completely unavoidable, I guess I go with something like, 'I'm Liz Kessler, I'm a children's author and I'm here to tell you a bit about my books.' Can't really go wrong with that, can you?

JO said...

Hello, I'm Jo Carroll *looks for table to hide under* and I went round the world. Um In my 50s. On my own. Well I went round some of the world, and wasn't on my own all the time cos I met people, and then I wrote a book about it

and please can I start again ...

(I'm with you on this one, Nicola)

Penny Dolan said...

This may sound self-confident (when in fact I rarely am) but now I am always ready to introduce myself in schools, after a brief pause just in case. Often, especially a couple of sessions in, there's nobody who steps forward to do any introduction, or if they do, they are a TA or a supply teacher so may not even know your name.At least if you introduce yourself, you can start the session in a positive mood and without being called a real live author. All I do is stand from where I've been sitting, walk forward, leave an almost theatrical pause while making proper eye contact, and then say - most beamingly - "Hello, I'm Penny Dolan, I'm a children's writer and storyteller and I'm here to talk to you about . . ."

Linda Strachan said...

You are right it is not an easy thing to do and we need to have something ready and practised.

I recall being in the Yurt at the Edinburgh Book Festival with you a few years back when I was asked (by Anthony Horowitz, I think) what did I write... I stumbled and mumbled, apologetically mentioning my Hamish McHaggis books and you gave me such a telling off.
You were so right and it made me rethink how I approach this most difficult of questions. Being taught as a child not to be too self important it takes a bit to get over that, If you tell people your books are great they might just be inclined to find out for themselves, but if you sound as though you are not sure if they are any good, why would they be interested!

It is more difficult when you write lots of different things to come up with a concise answer or statement and I think it depends on who you are speaking to and what the situation is. but here goes...

My name is Linda Strachan. I write books for all ages, from picture books to teenage novels and, for new and aspiring writers, I've written a writing handbook called Writing for Children.

Penny Dolan said...

Thinking on, this is a very important point you are making, Nicola. Occasionally, I've been at (non-Performance) writer's groups reading events and seen the strength of the work degraded by a few too many mumbled introductions of the "I shouldn't be here" type.

However, for those moments when An Awfully, Awfully Big Author speaks to you, my mind goes a complete wibbly wobbly blank, my soul shinks and all I can do is grin inanely. Must do better.

Dan Holloway said...

If it helps, I don't remember what you said in Oxford but I don't remember thinking anything other than consummate professionalism!

I tend to speak at things where there's a microphone on a stand and it's become a running joke that I always break the stand (there's a video at http://youtu.be/Q8HRava-2hc of me performing a poem this Tuesday and at about 15 seconds you can actually here an audience member call out "At least you won't break the mic this time") so I have developed a thing where I stand behind the mic and make a thing of "breaking" it and say "I can make anything droop at 10 paces" which always breaks the ice.

Rocky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emma Barnes said...

My worst introduction I made during a previous life as an employee of the Office of Fair Trading.

"Hello, I'm Emma Barnes, calling from the OFT," I blurted down the phone to a manufacturer of metal goods, "and I want to speak to you about a murder."

He was very taken aback. I had meant to say MERGER not MURDER.

And now: "I am Emma Barnes, a children's author, and my next book, Wolfie is about a girl whose pet dog is not what it seems...

Nicola Morgan said...

V sorry I didn't comment earlier - been at a conf all day, where I was introduced beautifully :)

Liz - respect!

Dan - thank you re Oxford. *smiles re the dropping mic*

Penny - I think you're right: really important and useful to have something prepared in your head. I'm going to try.

Linda - I'm very sorry I told you off! But it obviously had a good effect :) I think I remember that incident but it wasn't Anthony H - it was Michael Fry, in Ciao Roma? That's the one I remember - maybe I told you off twice!

Emma - ouch!

Nicola Morgan said...

And Jo - glad it's not just me!

Linda Strachan said...

Must have been twice! but only recall it being A H!

Jan said...

Mostly I speak to writers and booksellers about publishing. My most cringeworthy event was where someone else introduced me in such fulsome terms that I just KNEW anything I said after that was going to be a disappointment. Nowadays I say: 'Good morning. I'm Jan Greenough and I've been a ghost for twenty years.' That makes 'em sit up.

Stroppy Author said...

Me too - can't stand it. Partly because I do so many different things, and if I do the wrong bit of intro people just look confused and are obviously thinking 'so if you are children's writer, what are you doing with a panel full of maths professors?' Aaaargh.

lily said...

There's a man in the Guardian weekend mag who is introduced as 'adventurer and author'. I'm going for that one next time.

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