I’ve always fought shy of public speaking, but no longer! Just over a week ago, I gave a thank you speech to a lovely group of people at the launch of Stop the Clock. The launch was hosted by Mostly Books, a brilliant independent bookshop in my hometown.
It’s funny how you can end up feeling physically nervous even if, in your head, everything is hunky and dory. I couldn’t have wished for a warmer, more encouraging audience, and I knew exactly what I wanted to say, which was along the same lines as my last blog post. I wanted to thank everybody for coming, acknowledge the help and support I’d received both from the people present and from some who had been unable to make it, and let everybody get back to their wine. Yet, when it came to it, it was – not intimidating, exactly, but definitely a little tremble-inducing!
Tip for handling speech nerves: kid yourself it doesn’t count!
A work friend googled nerves about public speaking and sent me a good tip (it’s funny how google has become the first port of call when potential problems arise – google is the oracle). The tip was that it’s actually counterproductive to build up to something and steel your nerves and tell yourself how desperately important it is. Instead, if you kid yourself that the stakes are low and it really doesn’t matter, you’ll be much more relaxed and confident.
This reminded me of the advice we were given on hitting high notes back when I was a child singing in the South Berkshire Music Centre choir: you were meant to imagine yourself falling down onto the top notes like a cat landing on its feet, rather than straining up as if they were on a high shelf out of reach. I tried to remember this when I did my first ever radio interview at Radio Oxford on Bank Holiday Monday.
Sex on a Bank Holiday Monday… with a lion on the loose
As it was a public holiday, most people were off work when I went into Radio Oxford – I had to go through the car park to the back door to be let in. I’d never been in a local radio station before, and was reminded ever so slightly of a hospital – it had that functional, conscientious, public service feel, where things tend not to get chucked out for the sake of it, as long as they still work.
The green sofa I perched on while waiting for my slot could have been in a parents’ room off a children’s ward, and the big notice reminding staff to ask listeners to send in their pictures reminded me of the signs you get everywhere in hospital, exhorting everybody to go and wash their hands.
I had somehow managed to kid myself that the interview was going to be pre-recorded, and it wasn’t until I was sitting down at a little desk with a big green baize-covered microphone in front of me (there was a lot of green baize) and saying ‘Good afternoon’ that I allowed myself to realise I WAS NOW LIVE ON AIR! Actually, we had a nice chat, and it was all over very quickly.
And so I got to talk about sex via a public service broadcaster at lunchtime on a Bank Holiday Monday. Well, sort of. We chatted about 50 Shades and how the girls in my class at school didn’t think the family saga I wrote as a teenager had enough rude bits in it. I giggled quite a lot. You can hear my Radio Oxford interview here, for the time being anyway – my bit kicks in at 1:07:25 (after Saturday Night Fever!) It’s about 10 mins.
The big story of the day was the lion on the loose in Essex, which turned out to be a big cat. I left the studio and found I had a very cheery text message of congratulation from my husband. Then I went home and ate a very large slice of caramel cake to celebrate.
What they’re saying about Stop the Clock
Here are some of the comments that have appeared in mainstream print media about Stop the Clock:
‘Mercer has a satirical eye which she puts to good effect in describing such cornerstones of middle-class life as private antenatal classes and bitchy newspaper columnists. A funny, promising debut’ Wendy Holden, Daily Mail
‘Effortlessly readable and sharply realistic, this is grown-up chick-lit at its very best’ Closer
‘Funny and moving, this is a fab debut from Alison Mercer’ new!
There have been some great amazon reviews, too, and some lovely blog reviews:
I also did a guest blog post on Shaz’s Book Blog which sets out my dream cast for a film adaptation of the book
And, on a slight tangent… here’s the Guardian article I wrote about birth scenes in fiction. (Birth does feature in Stop the Clock!)
I was particularly chuffed to hear about my friend’s mum who read Stop the Clock in six hours straight. Once they get started people seem to read it fast!