Co-presenting a workshop at the 57th annual FCSPA conference: James Blevins explains what it was like in his own words.
To be honest, for most of the beginning of the workshop, my biggest concern was whether or not the 20 or so gathered people in front of me could tell just how much I was sweating through my blue, recently-bought polo shirt. By the end of it, the fabric under my arms—not to be gross—was several shades darker than the rest of my shirt.
I was that nervous.
Prior to the 57th Annual FCSPA Conference held in Orlando on Oct. 14, I had never spoke at a workshop or co-presented anything remotely like one before. Melissa Alling, my co-host and the originator of the workshop (as well as my ex-English professor and mentor at CF), had asked me if I was interested in joining her at the conference back in August. She believed that my experience as a young poet and blogger, just starting to be published, would benefit others looking to walk down the same path. It was beyond flattering to be asked; and without thinking too much about it, I said yes. I was incredibly honored that she had thought to include me, and that was enough for me at the time.
It wasn’t until much later, say about a week before the conference, that I began to realize what I had signed on for. I wasn’t sure if I had enough material to discuss the finer points of blogging for beginners in front of an audience (and if I didn’t, they would surely find out pretty quick). I had attended last year’s conference, witnessed the workshops and the quality of presenters involved, so I knew how good I was supposed to come across. I began to doubt myself. About the only thing going in my favor was that I was passionate about the subject matter—that and I was currently taking an Effective Speaking class, which might help (it did a little).
Thankfully, Alling was there to reassure me, as she always has been, and I attacked the workshop with as much confidence and poise as I could assemble. I spoke from the innermost realm of my heart. I shared my personal experiences—the highs and the lows of trying to get published as a young writer—the successes and the failures—and how all that tied into my personal blog. I gave the room the best of myself, emphasizing the value of building an audience and letting others (and sometimes yourself) know just how serious you are when it comes to writing by starting a blog and sticking with it.
Eventually, as the workshop continued, I was able to focus my mind away from my uncontainable perspiration. I was able to focus on my talking points and say what I had come there to say. And if one person out of the 20 or so gathered got something meaningful from my presentation, then it was more than worth a little sweat under the arms.
Besides, maybe nobody noticed.