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Toastmasters for Writers

I am a word lover! I would have said I’m a book lover, but over the years how my world has changed.  I’ve grown from an avid reader of the physical book (still my favourite form, I have to add!) to loving my Sony eReader which allows me to read six books on holiday without paying the dreaded penalty of luggage charges, as I cram books into my suitcase.

But I then became a writer – if I thought I loved words as a reader – I love them even more as a writer.  Finding just the right word to portray the image I’m compelled to create brings back memories of my dad, cup of tea in hand each evening, as he sat with his daily crossword fix.

But how exactly does this all lead on to Toastmasters?

Toastmasters International

Well, I don’t know whether you agree – and would love you to let me know either way – but early in my writing career, I realised that how you deliver your writing to the wider audience is every bit as important as the way you write it.  Never having trouble reading in class as a child, I suddenly found myself becoming tongue-tied and emotional as I read aloud memoir pieces in my creative writing class.  My throat would dry up and my heart thunder in my ears. It may be a good thing to ‘feel the moment‘ in what you’ve created, but it dawned on me then, that as a writer you bare your very soul to the world. You feel that anyone listening to you read is judging you not only on your writing, but also on your delivery.

Although I’m still going to buy their books, I have occasionally come away from a book launch just a little disappointed if my favourite writer has mumbled their way through their reading. On the other hand, I have often listened to writers read so beautifully, that even though I might not have been a fan of their genre, I have purchased their book.

I considered a quick-fix and scoured the internet.  I found various sites on public speaking courses and even psychotherapy – which I considered enough to send off an enquiry email. A couple of friends mentioned Toastmasters (even though they didn’t know much about it)  and the name popped up favourably, again and again in forums – so I decided to give it a try. I rang the President of Clondalkin Toastmasters, who was friendly and encouraging and informed me that it was free to attend the first couple of meetings to see what I thought. I still hadn’t a clue what to expect that first night, but if I told you I’m in my second year and currently hold the title of Vice President Public Relations, I’m sure you’d figure out that I enjoyed it and found Toastmasters did exactly what it said on the tin!

‘Our Club is made up of people from all walks of life who come together to practise public speaking, evaluating and inpromtu speaking in a supportive, friendly environment.’

It is and it does. Toastmasters hold meetings all over the world. Their members are from all walks-of-life; young, old, rich, poor, confident and shy, but all with one goal – to become better public speakers. And believe me, it works. Every meeting is an enjoyable night as you partake or listen to speeches or tall tales; a poem or a joke, give your feed-back and enjoy the laughter and banter over a cuppa at the break. It is the most encouraging environment you could imagine where you learn from watching others and put these tips into practice in your own speeches. The ‘pause’ is one I have yet to master – it adds so much to a speech – I’ll keep practicing . . .

At any stage in our lives – be it weddings, funerals, meetings or book launches – the ability to stand up in front of a crowd and speak is one we should all strive to master.

Do you agree with me?

Or are you already a fellow Toastmasters who would care to share?

 

Today is NATIONAL LIBRARIES DAY

Which celebrates all libraries: public libraries, school libraries, university libraries, prison libraries, law libraries etc.  It also celebrates librarians, members and supporters across the UK.

Why not have a world-wide Celebration of Libraries?
We’d be lost without them!

I LOVE libraries.

I love reading because of libraries and I have no doubt, that I am a writer today, because of all the books I devoured from their vast shelves . . .

I spent weekends and holidays at my gran’s and remember fondly, from the age of seven, walking to Inchicore Library, Dublin, each day where I would spend hours scouring the shelves for their latest offering.  I would hand in my two green tickets and in return, I was allowed to take two precious books home.  They would have been read, from cover-to-cover, and returned the following afternoon when I’d walk back through the swinging half-door to repeat the process.  Years later, after reading Stephen King’s, ‘IT’, I could see that scarey clown, in my mind’s eye, standing right there!

But way back then, it was Enid Blyton’s books, ranging from; The Faraway Tree; Brer Rabbit or Noddy to The Secret Seven; The Famous Five and The Five Find-Outers (remember Fatty with his fabulous disguises and Buster and Mr Goon?).  I wonder in current re-prints if Fatty has changed his name?  Everyone loved him in the books and it was only ever used as a term of endearment – but different times.  Ditto with Noddy and Big Ears . . .

English: Blue plaque for Enid Blyton near Dulw...

English: Blue plaque for Enid Blyton near Dulwich Library. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember moving on to HE Todd’s Bobby Brewster books – do you remember Bobby with the magic kite, magic lamp or the magic hair that stuck up at the back of his head?  Or the Mrs Pepperpot books by Alf Prøysen – the poor woman spent more of her life shrinking at the most inopportune moments, to be saved by her black cat who would take her home on his back – just in the nick of time.  I was enchanted by the magical stories about The Five Children (and it), written by E Nesbit, but when my cousin Charlie, after spending the afternoon teaching me to play chess, gave me his copy of ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’, I had to be prised from the pages.  It is still, to this day, one of my all-time favourite books – thanks Charlie!  I gobbled it up along with the rest of the Narnia chronicles and had the pleasure of re-living them all again when my children came along.

Although I received hundreds of books over the years, without my local library, my parents would never have been able to keep up with my reading appetite.  Today, with purse strings a little tighter, we should be making the most of this great facility we have on our doorsteps – to be able, for free, to borrow brand new books which have just arrived in the shops; older books by a new author you’ve recently enjoyed; to be able to search out and borrow books which are no longer in print and to research absolutely any topic under the sun.  Do we cherish our libraries as much as we should?  When was the last time you visited your local library?  You might be surprised to see the rows of PC’s, racks of CD’s and shelves of DVD’s.  Fans of the eReader can borrow books, from the comfort of their own home, without ever having to worry about fines – the books magically return to the library on their due date!

I am fortunate to be a member of The County Library, Tallaght, where, along with fellow writers and poets from local writing groups, we had the opportunity to Read our work.  Sign up for emails at your local library, to keep you informed of events they run, which can be anything from free Readings to free Spanish or creative writing classes . . .

I look forward, immensely, to your comments on your favourite library and your favourite children’s books – and hopefully one or two of you may remember some of mine!

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