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Great Public Speaking – Right in Your Own Backyard

One of the many reasons why I enjoy living in the Bay Area is the seemingly endless opportunities to hear good speakers. I am a member of Left Coast Writers (LCW), and recently attended our monthly Literary Salon held at Book Passage Independent bookstore in Corte Madera, CA. Under the direction of author and speaker, Linda Watanabe McFerrin, LCW provides the literary community with resources, readings, writing tips, networking, literary chat and generally great fun. If you’re a writer, you want to be there.


Our meeting began with Linda taking the podium to welcome the enthusiastic audience and to introduce the evening’s speaker. Watching Linda at work in front of the group was impressive. Her relaxed approach to public speaking is a reminder of how personal grace and charm can fuel an endearing connection with an audience. As she enjoyed us, we enjoyed her more.


What I love most about Linda’s delivery is her voice and what she does with it. Her pace is slow and sensible, and her tone understated as if she just stepped out of a 1940’s movie set. But those deep vocal melodies are easily punctuated with tiny fits of laughter (mostly at her own jokes) which keeps us engaged and laughing all the more. When Linda smiles, she radiates warmth and confidence. And as she scans the audience, checking its pulse and reading its cues, she’s ready to respond with wit and cunning. A seriously fun and funny person, Linda has mastered the Connection Loop.


Linda would have been entirely enough for one LCW evening, but then she introduced our guest speaker, Alan Rinzler.


Alan Rinzler is a veteran book publisher. He is currently Executive Editor at Jossey-Bass Publishing, and has held positions as Director of Trade Publishing at Bantam Books, Vice President and Associate Publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine, and has been an editor at Simon and Shuster, Macmillan, Holt and the Grove Press. He has worked with such luminaries as Clive Cussler, Toni Morrison, Tom Robbins, Shirley MacLaine, Bob Dylan and Hunter S. Thompson.


Alan began his speech with a message of hope to all writers. He debunked the myth that the book publishing industry is dying by telling us that 2009 was a great year for the book business, with stock prices up in this sector. With such good news, we liked him right away!


But it wasn’t only Alan’s message of hope and his credentials that made him persuasive. He has an intelligent style and a confident, calm and caring presence. He’s articulate, knowledgeable and self-deprecating, and his years of experience both in the book publishing industry and speaking in front of groups were evident. Best of all, Alan used a variety of rhetorical devices, including statistics, examples and stories, that kept his message alive and engaging. My only regret was that we didn’t hear a few more stories. With his rich history, I’m sure he could have kept us enthralled for hours.


What struck me most about Alan (in addition to his cumulus halo of dove white hair)  was his decision mid-career to get a graduate degree in psychology because, as he said, “You really have to be a therapist to work with writers.” Alan spoke with depth and passion about an industry he loves. He shared valuable tips and resources and inspired us, as any good therapist would, to keep at it. After all, he said, “There’s never been a better time to be a writer.”


Visit Alan’s site and read his blog. I think you’ll find that he’s a terrific resource for writers and speakers.


And for all you Left Coast Writers out there…what did you think of the February Salon?

February 5th, 2010 | Permalink | Trackback | Bookmark and Share

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