“Going on” about my novel

At a opening faculty meeting, when asked to introduce myself to the new faculty and mention a highlight from my summer, I announced to everyone that I had finished revising my novel, that I had been blogging, and that I had just gone live with my website (www.jcopenhaver.com).  As I did this, I felt very self-conscious.  I knew I would.  I never know what people will think.  Of course, a room full of teachers and educators couldn’t be a nicer, more responsive bunch.  However, it always sets me on edge to talk about my book, particularly in a public setting.

Obviously, this is something I just need to get over.  In fact, I feel that I’ve made a lot of progress in talking about my book and quickly defining it:  a-historical-literary-mystery-set-on-the-homefront-during-WWII-which-examines-issues-of-sexual orientation-and-identity-during-that-time-period.  Of course, it still doesn’t come out all that smoothly.

Where does this hesitation, this—let’s just say it—insecurity come from?  I’m a good writer.  I believe in my novel.  Why can’t I just feel at ease when chatting about it?  I have a theory . . .

During one of our opening meetings at school, we have a slideshow which features photos that faculty have submitted about important or interesting summer events in their lives.  Newborn babies were a major feature this year.  I had several fellow faculty members, when talking to me about my novel, liken my finishing the novel to having a baby.  The metaphor works well.  Perhaps, too well.

As my brothers and I were growing up, my mother felt very strongly that parents shouldn’t brag about their children.  So, of course, it wasn’t a behavior she indulged in . . . at least to my knowledge.  In a quiet way, I think she would let it be known that she was proud of us, but she wasn’t going to “go on” about us.  Of course, as a kid, I wished she had “gone on” a bit more about me, but as an adult, I understand that she didn’t want me to “think too highly of myself.”  Humility is never a bad thing to instill in a child, right?

Unfortunately, when I hesitate to talk about my novel, I’m treating my newborn the same way.  The metaphor holds.  I don’t want to be one of those writers who “go on” about their books, I say to myself.  What will they think if I tell them that I believe it’s a good book and that it has a great ending!  One doesn’t talk about his child that way.  That’s not how I was raised.

To promote a book, however, you do need to be able to talk confidently about your work and tell people that it’s quality goods . . . I’m learning slowly but surely to do this.

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5 Comments

Filed under Marketing You and Your Work, Random Thoughts, Teaching and Writing

5 responses to ““Going on” about my novel

  1. Debbi Hamrick

    John,
    It’s funny, I kind of took the opposite approach with praising my boys, because I didn’t get a lot of it growing up, and I’m not the most secure person.
    My guys got an abundance of praise and affirmation, and I think they both have good self images, not overblown or anything. So go on about your new book, I can’t wait to read it since I really enjoyed your first book, and from what you’ve said about it, it sounds like it will be even better! Brag about your baby!!! (Well, maybe not brag exactly……but you know what I mean!)

  2. The wonderful independent sociologist Po Bronson was interviewed on All Things Considered yesterday about his new book, Nurture Shock, discussing how certain current parenting practices, such as overpraise of children, have an unintended effect of undermining them. The child/book analogy may be imperfect, but I think we could learn something from ol’ Po: if, for example, a kid who’s new at baseball and striking out a lot is praised for exactly what she attempted: “you really swung that bat”, rather than something general, inflated and false: “hey, you’re really great at baseball”, then the praise has meaning. What I draw from this about talking about my book is to stick to facts rather than value judgments. I can be enthusiastically descriptive without going beyond that into a sales pitch. I can be at ease and authentic in my description of what I wrote and what it means to me. In that frame of mind, I’m probably at my most effective in engaging interest in literature, if not in my book.

    For more about Po and his latest:
    http://www.pobronson.com/blog/

    • johncopenhaver

      Marisha, Po has the right idea. Finding specifics to praise or criticize is so important, both in children and in books.

  3. Pingback: Going on about going on . . . « Talking the Walk

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