Volume VI, No. 3, Spring 1979
Have you ever signed your name four hundred times in one sitting? Have you ever addressed a teachers' convention or a student body without a prepared speech? I have, and all because I am a Bittersweet staff member.
The writer's cramp resulted from autographing copies of Bittersweet Country during the sessions when the whole staff signed books assembly-line style, racing to see who could finish the fastest. As the back log of books beside me piled higher, my discomfort seemed to be a consequence of trying to write so fast and furiously to catch up. But then I thought of the several staff members who had spent all day autographing books at various bookstores in the area, and I tried to imagine all the people who wanted autographed copies of Bittersweet Country. All these thoughts made me appreciate our role in an important project preserving the lore, crafts and culture of the Ozarks through magazine and book publication.
The stage fright resulted from giving presentations to all kinds of groups and people. Ellen Massey, two students and I gave a talk at the National Conference of Teachers of English in Kansas City. Although I thought the jitters I got before speaking to that group of English department heads would kill me, I survived and soon found it was well worth it when the audience was so responsive, asked many questions and stayed afterwards to visit.
After Bittersweet Country was published, the staff gave a school assembly to let our fellow classmates know what our magazine and book were all about. Everyone on the staff helped in some way by setting up beforehand, selling books and magazines, narrating the slide show, arranging the photo display or speaking to the audience. We were all apprehensive about how the assembly would come off because we knew our possibly disinterested peer group would be our hardest audience yet.
Vickie spoke first about the general aspects of the magazine and the book, and after the slide show, I related some of my experiences. We have found that a spontaneous talk with just the help of a few words or an outline is better received than a memorized speech--so, the same for the assembly. We were petrified at the prospect of just addressing more than nine hundred students, let alone catching and holding their interest. By Vickie's second sentence I thought from their quiet attention that maybe they really were interested. When I walked up to the podium with my list of words, I hoped my voice wouldn't quaver like my knees had been doing. As I addressed that sea of faces I knew they were interested when they laughed at my jokes. I forgot my stage fright.
I realized from these three experiences how proud and grateful I am to be a part of the magazine, the book and preserving the past. But even though writer's cramp and stage fright are not exactly enjoyable, they are more sweet than bitter.
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.