My First Lecture

If you manage to get a book published, and then you manage to land a gig where people are willing to sit and listen to you talk about that book, I highly recommend working it so that you have a small and friendly audience for that first outing.

I also highly recommend that you arrange to give that first lecture in the dark, with only a heavy-duty Mag-Lite illuminating the room. It hides the anxiety in your own eyes from your audience while also making it hard for you to see if your audience is falling asleep, thereby removing a source of said anxiety.

I had the absolutely wonderful opportunity to do just this last Friday, at a fund-raising overnight event for the Brentsville jail, where people got to actually spend the night in the jail and learn a little bit more about it.  People got to be a part of the jail renovation by driving nails into the floorboards (my son may have a future as a carpenter’s assistant, based on his performance), and then a mock trial was held to offer up some of the finer points of slave law and how legal representation has changed entirely for the better in the past 150 years.

Then we all trooped into the jail, which had no electricity, and I did my spiel while my kid aimed our industrial flashlight at the ceiling  so that the room was bright enough that nobody tripped but dim enough that I did not experience the aforementioned anxiety. Then the site manager escorted us all outside for s’mores and s’more stories about the jail and its history—and then we all went to bed. The site manager is an absolutely lovely man who went above and beyond and made sure that my son and I got to sleep in the room where James Clark died. I was so flattered and excited by this, I can’t even tell you. It almost made me wish I believed in ghosts so that I’d see Clark’s. (I didn’t. I flopped onto that wooden floor, buried myself in a sleeping bag and immediately zonked out til sunrise.)

Next morning I signed a few books, had a doughnut, and raced home to share the whole experience with my husband, who is far too intelligent to ever sleep on a wooden floor in an unheated building with no bathroom.  He totally missed out!


About arwenbicknell

Editor by day, author by night.
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