Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Speaking Of ...

I have just finished my time on the lecture circuit. As both of you may remember, last February I spoke to S's 2nd-grade class for career day. It was a resounding success and I'm sure I unleashed dozens of little freelance writers on the world, clad comfortably in robes, slippers and porkpies.

Today, I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual luncheon of the parent teacher organization for St. George's Independent School (people paid $25 a piece just to listen to me! ... and for lunch). I still don't know why I agreed to it. The vice president of the association sent me an e-mail back in February asking if I'd be interested in being the guest speaker. Public speaking is a phobia of mine, but I didn't immediately turn down the offer. Instead, I slept on it, and when I woke up the following morning I wrote 1,000 words to start off a possible speech. That part seemed easy, so I replied and accepted the offer.

I didn't look at what I'd written, or really give the luncheon much thought, until last week when I picked up that draft from more than two months before and read it out loud. Vice President Walker asked that I speak for 25 minutes, yet my hand-written speech came in at a cool 4:55. I would need to write four times what I'd already written.

I sat down and doubled what I had and it was still coming in short, at about 10 minutes, but I was happy with it. I kept reading it and tweaking it, let a couple of others read it, and we all decided it was a good speech.

So today I delivered it. I stood up in front of a room full of strangers out at TPC Southwind and delivered a speech that had them laughing aloud from the get go. It went much better than I'd hoped and everyone seemed very appreciative.

One of the reasons I agreed to do this was because the thought of doing it terrified me. I don't think I'll be scaling the side of a building any time soon, or letting spiders crawl over me, but I'm happy with myself that I could get past this and that it could turn out so well. I was confident in the material, I just wasn't confident in myself.

So thank you to St. George's and the parents who make up their PTA for a great afternoon and a little boost of confidence.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Because I Said So

My column in The Commercial Appeal yesterday was about the kids always wanting - needing! - to go someplace other than wherever it is they are at the moment, usually our house. I go on from there to how expensive all of the local attractions are - the zoo, Children's Museum, Botanic Gardens, etc. It's really quite clever.

A couple of interesting items came from that column. Drake & Zeke, on their morning drive-time radio program, said some very nice things about the column, me and my writing. I appreciate that very much.

Today, former mayor of Memphis and current CEO of the Children's Museum called to discuss the column and let me know why any sort of all-city pass to these attractions won't work. Mainly because places like the zoo and Botanic Gardens are a public/private venture while places like the Children's Museum and Dixon Gallery & Gardens are completely private. Makes sense, but I still think there could be some tweaking. I wasn't really looking for an answer, I was just trying to be funny in 500 words, but it was nice of Mayor Hackett to take the time to discuss it with me, it was a very philosophical conversation.

I didn't think about recording the phone call until later, but below is the bit from the Drake & Zeke show. Enjoy!

www.richardalley.com/RJAlley_040110.mp3

C is for Cool

C and I went to a book reading and signing last night at Burke's Book Store in Cooper-Young. At the shop, C shuffled back to the chapter books while I was cornered by the proprietors' 14-year-old daughter who is also a C, a Ch, actually, because if any kid ever deserved an extra letter, it's Ch. She is friendly and outgoing and the word 'shy' is not in her extensive vocabulary. Ch should be a character in a book, and since her father is a prolific writer, I'm sure she will be. We talked for a while about Monty Python while C sat nearby reading, not to be bothered. My own Silent Bob.

After the reading, he and I went to Young Ave. Deli for dinner. C seemed right at home with his longish hair and classic Stax tee, sliding into a booth and slouching against the back wall as though he'd done it a thousand times before. The tattooed waitress with the metal-studded face appeared to find the silent 12 year old more intriguing than his old man with the graying, receding hair and goofy grin on his face that seemed to say, "I will not be helping a 3 year old go potty during this dinner."

Having successfully ignored the book store owners' daughter who never even acknowledged his existence, C coolly waved away the children's menu/placemat and crayons offered to him, and even remained silent when asked what he would like to drink (C, that's when I need you to speak up). I accepted that menu to let him know what his dinner choices were.

We sat there, mostly in silence, drinking our lemonade and Guinness while I looked around and he texted. There were a lot of young children at Young Ave. Deli. I fought back the urge to go to each table and announce, "I used to be you! I used to be the hip young parent introducing my toddler(s) to pub grub. I wasn't always the near-40 father who spends his days fussing after the bird feeders and puttering around his garden. And, lady, I see that homemade sandwich in the plastic baggie peeking out of the top of your purse. You're not fooling anybody, now give that kid an onion ring."

C and I did talk. We discussed books and school and plans for the summer. Having dinner out with your kid is cool, no matter their age. Or yours. And as we sat there waiting for our food, he stealthily pulled a nubby little pencil from his pocket to work his way through the children's menu maze, connect the dots and dive into the word search.

He may have finished his entire Guinness, but he's still my little boy.