Thursday, September 16, 2010

Confession of a One-Time Homeschool Convention Speaker

2006 Convention
Speaker: Me
Imagine a single mom huddled in a hotel bathroom in the middle of the night. Nerves have gotten the best of her; she’s freezing and feeling nauseous and crying and asking God why she had ever agreed to speak at a homeschool convention. (Furthermore, she’s wondering why she ever thought that making a career of traveling on the homeschool convention circuit as a speaker and vendor would be a dream come true!) Twelve hours later, she’s talking and laughing with eleven other women in her workshop called "Confessions of a Single Parent Homeschooler."

That was me four years ago. I surprised myself by not being the dull, slow, and boring speaker that I was when I practiced on my children the night before. No migraines or queasy feelings brought me down, and I suffered only twinges of nervousness that morning. That afternoon, it was a relief to sit at a long table and feel like part of a group instead of being forced to stand behind a podium. I had a mic clipped to my tunic so that I could be taped. Ultimately, the experience was rewarding.

I explained to the ladies in my workshop that I had stepped way outside my comfort zone to lead that session. (In fact, I had not signed up to lead it – my very first workshop -- alone; I had agreed to share the responsibility with another single homeschool mom, who then vanished off the face of the Earth and left me holding the homeschool bag. So I wrote a book to organize my thoughts and ideas and see if I could make enough money to cover my expenses that weekend.)  After my workshop, the ladies said they had fun and that I didn’t seem nervous at all. I even got a few laughs, which made my day because the night before, I couldn’t think of anything funny to say! I felt so at ease after getting started that I stopped using my notes and just went with it! We had plenty of fun with my “confessions,” and the women even confessed a few things! Nobody asked questions that stumped me. But of course I had asked God to give me the words to say, and He certainly did!

On the drive home, I listened to the tape of my session. My kids said, "Wow! Mom sounds so smart! And Southern!" Funny, I don’t know where that southern accent came from -- I was born and raised in the Midwest! I couldn’t believe that was me on the tape. I sounded so young! I was amazed at the words coming out of my mouth, and there wasn’t even a hint of a stutter! Honestly, I think I’m a better writer than a speaker. I have a degree in speech (the drama type), but I discovered that public speaking drains every ounce of energy from my system.

Now, the bad news is that I only sold one of my books at that convention. ONE BOOK! So, no, I didn’t make enough to cover my expenses. Can I vent a bit here? The book signing was messed up. Nobody had a clear answer about set-up. Then I was told that someone would set up a table for me later, so I took my daughter to lunch. When we returned, there was one table, and another couple had their books and decorations all over it. So again I asked and got the run-around. Then, that couple offered to move some stuff so I could sit at the end of their table with my things. That was nice of them. However, they were locals and known by about everyone, so people were eager to talk to them and buy their books, and I was ignored. I think two people talked to me, and two other people took a free bookmark that I had made. So the book-signing stuff wasn’t fun. I’m not a salesman. I can make signs and bookmarks and stuff, but I can’t attract customers. Maybe that was a sign from God that life as a vendor is not for me?

Something did make up for the lack of sales, and that was the donated supplies for single moms. My conference room was piled with all kinds of books, games, videos, and tapes! Since I helped sort them before my session, I got first pick! I got some tapes and books for Spanish lessons, a high school science text that I needed, some history books, and leisure reading books for the kids. I even found a sign language book for Jasmine, who had been asking to learn sign language! Those freebies saved me money for the next homeschool year.

I really had a great time - regardless of the book sale bust - and came home happy about the experience. I sat in some great workshops and got to talk to some interesting people, and the women in my workshop left feeling encouraged. The one who bought my book found nearly all the curriculum she needed for her daughter. She almost cried! She got the exact language arts, the exact math, and the exact history or science (I forget which) that she had wanted for the upcoming year - in great shape, and all free! Is that a God-thing or what! 

No, I didn’t get drawn into the homeschool convention circuit, but now that I know what it’s really like, I’m not that disappointed. Besides, I’m enjoying life as a writer and proofreader. Writing doesn’t drain me like speaking does. It invigorates me!

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