Monthly Archives: June 2013

Smile – it’s your first speech!

Gollum at the Wellington airport
–Gollum at the Wellington airport

So we all have fears, right? I’m afraid of spiders, I’m not good with heights, and I’m terrified of drowning. But the most common fear of all, and definitely one of my biggest fears, is the fear of public speaking.

That’s why it’s so great to be a writer. I can write, and ponder, and rewrite until I’m happy that the words are saying what I intend them to say, and I can do it alone, where no one can see me. That’s all well and good, except that when you have a book published, there’s an expectation that you’ll have a book launch, read from your book, do interviews—lots of speaking in public about your book. And this small fact I’d managed to avoid facing until a month ago, when the Sono Nis Press catalogue came out. It was then it suddenly occurred to me. Oh oh—I really am going to have to do something about this fear of public speaking.

So, I joined Toastmasters. I’ve been going to meetings once a week for a month now, and so far I’ve managed to pretty much avoid speaking. But this weekend, when next week’s preliminary agenda arrived in my email, I noticed to my ABSOLUTE HORROR, that I’m down to do a 1.5 minute speech. It’s a smile story, so the idea is to come up with a very short story that will make people smile. I’m just hoping I don’t pass out or puke. Please, keep your fingers crossed for me!

Here’s my smile story

My name is Jenny, and as some of you may know, I’m from New Zealand, land of the long white cloud—although, most of you probably know it as the land of hobbits and Middle Earth. In New Zealand, we have two official languages—Maori, the language spoken by our native people, and the Queen’s English.

Now I admit I have a bit of an accent, but still, I’m speaking English, right?

Or am I?

I went to the supermarket the other day to buy things for dinner. I got some salad vegetables and fruit, and then I went to the meat section to pick up a couple of top sirloin medallions. But the shelf was empty.

My husband, Patrick, says, “Oh well, let’s get something else.”

But I want those medallions—I’ve been thinking about them all day, and nothing else will do. “Don’t worry, I’ll ask the butcher,” I say. So I march over to the butcher’s counter and one of the guys comes to help me.

“What can I get you?” he asks.

Well, at that precise moment I have a brain fart, like you do, and I can’t remember what the steak is called. Never mind, I think to myself, I’ll just describe it, and he will know what I mean.

“I want some steak—you know the round ones with the string around them?”

The butcher looks at me blankly, so I try to clarify.

“I looked on the shelf, and there were none there. You know, that steak with the string around them.” Because everyone knows that when someone doesn’t understand you, the best thing to do is just repeat yourself.

Another blank look, and then he says, “Stick?? Is that a kind of fish?”

{Edited to add: You might also be interested in my latest speaking nightmare.}