I can still remember the day in seventh grade when I had to read my report out loud to my class. My hands trembled so badly I could barely hold the paper. My voice grew so soft it was inaudible. When the ordeal was over I gratefully took my seat. I never wanted to talk in front of a group of any size ever again.
I had wanted to be a writer ever since I first began to read on my own. I liked the way writers worked, in isolation, reading, writing, researching. It seemed an ideal life to me.
Except that writing, especially writing for children, carries a public speaking component. School visits, bookstore events, book festivals, writers are expected to speak, and to be both entertaining as well as educational while doing so. It's a tall order, and the act of writing itself is difficult enough!
Yet over the years, I have come to enjoy these events, which were so difficult at first. For example, talks I prepared which I thought would last half an hour were over in ten minutes. Questions from the audience focused on someone asking how she could get published, rather than about anything I had presented.
Then I started to do better. Presenting library story time, often to an audience of over one hundred wiggly preschoolers, helped. Watching the performers who came to the library to give programs helped. I attended other writers' talks at bookstores and libraries to see what they did, and scoured the internet for advice. At my last school talk, the principal told me mine was the best author visit they had ever had.
Yet sometimes I can't help envying writers of books for adults, who merely need to tell an entertaining story, read from their work, then wait for questions...