First Royalties

Not a lot to report at the moment. My MFA residency started Friday, so I’m busy with that.

I did make a post to Facebook post (my first ever) about Finding Frances a couple weeks ago, and a couple people bought it. But still, getting it in front of people is nearly impossible.

I got my first royalties check, which came as a pitifully small direct deposit. But it did come, and I’ve now made actual money from Finding Frances.

royalties payment direct deposit

The only other thing going on is I’ve decided to start drawing again, which means I’m practicing with books and an art teacher. A couple of the books I’m using are about drawing cats, so here are a couple of the ones I’ve copied from one of the books:

Kittens

Review: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay book coverThis is another very quiet book from LaCour that punches you right in the heart, much like Hold Still. I’ve read some of her other books and enjoyed them (I’ve given each of them 5 stars on Goodreads, which I rarely do), so I expected to like this one. I did— it got another 5-star rating.

We Are Okay is about Marin, who has just finished her first semester of college in New York. She’s from California and her best friend, Mabel, is coming to visit her. This best friendship has been deeply complicated by the fact that Marin has been completely ignoring all Mabel’s texts since right before her school started. This is a dual timeline story, being told in the present (December) and in the timeline starting in the previous May, so the past unfolds slowly. We know pretty early the basics of what happened: Marin’s guardian and only family, Gramps, died in August and she immediately left California. But it turns out to be more complicated than that.

Mabel is pissed at Marin, but she also understands that Marin went through something really traumatic. The majority of the book’s present timeline is Marin trying to come out of her shell and really reach out to Mabel, but it’s not easy. The past timeline tells the story of their romance and how much Mabel means to Marin, as well as Marin’s life with Gramps. It wasn’t a joyful life, as he never seemed to get over the accidental death of Marin’s mom (when she was three), or his own wife’s death. But life with Mabel was joyful, which is why it hurt her so much when Marin completely pulled away. Now, Mabel wants Marin to go back to California with her. Marin has no family left—and no place to stay—and Mabel’s parents want to fill that void. Yet Marin can’t imagine going.

As I mentioned above, this is a quiet book. It’s not heavy on plot—there are no car chases, for sure—but the character development is amazing. Both Marin and Mabel get uncovered a little bit at a time and so artfully, just enough at the right moments. The emotion of the book is delicately handled and you really feel Marin’s pain and sense of being lost. The other characters in the book are also very well-drawn—Gramps, Mabel’s parents. Even the groundskeeper, taxi driver, waitress, and pottery store owner seem to really come alive on the few pages they occupy.

Quiet doesn’t mean slow, but it does mean that it might take a little to really suck you in. I started reading it last weekend and it took me several days to get about 1/3 into the book, but then last night I started reading and didn’t finish until I’d hit the last page. If you liked Hold Still, you will definitely like this one. And if you haven’t read that but enjoy seeing overpowering and disorienting grief overcome, you will also like this one.

Review: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass book coverThe title of this book pretty much tells you what it’s about: bullying. But it’s about more than that, too, and it didn’t feel like an issue book to me.

Tenth grader Piddy (short for Piedad) Sanchez keeps a low-profile wherever she is. She’s just started out at a new high school in Queens, having moved with her mom from their old apartment in another part of the same borough. She’s befriended (sort of but not really) by an irritating girl named Darlene, who tells her that Yaqui is after her. Piddy doesn’t know why, but she eventually figures out it’s because Yaqui’s boyfriend leered and catcalled Piddy. Somehow this is her fault (…) and she deserves to be beaten up, according to Yaqui and her gang.

Piddy really just wants to be left alone to do well enough in her classes, work her Saturday job at the hair salon where her mom’s best friend, Lila, works, and occasionally visit her best friend, Mitzi, who has moved out of Queens. She also wants to learn about her absentee father and has an odd friendship with one of the boys from her old building. But things with Mitzi get awkward as Mitzi has made new friends at her new school and Piddy feels left behind. She also learns some things about her father that complicate her relationship with her mom. Then, Yaqui won’t let this thing go, and it haunts Piddy. All of this makes her start acting out a little, against everyone, including her mom and her friends. When Yaqui’s threat finally comes to a head, Piddy reacts understandably, basically going off track because she feels like she has no allies. She struggles with figuring out who she is as a result of this—does she want to try to be tough to fight back, or just be herself—whoever that is, exactly?

In the end, the school finds out about the bullying and they come to a very realistic solution that isn’t really fair to Piddy, but works. She also sorts things out with Mitzi and the subplot with Joey also resolves realistically.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is a sympathetic portrait of a girl with a fairly complicated life. She successfully navigates this rough chapter of her life and the book has a very positive ending.

In-Home Residency

The residency for my MFA is this July, and this time it’s remote. Which is kind of weird, but what isn’t weird right now? So, no nervously flying over mountains for me this summer.

This residency is for my fourth and final semester. I do have to go to one more residency to attend to officially graduate, but this is the last semester I have to do work. And I’m lucky because all I have to do this semester is finalize my thesis critical piece and creative piece, both of which are already in late-stage drafts. This will be nice because I’m considering applying for a PhD, so I will have time to work on preparing that application this coming semester and easily be ready for the spring deadline. (It’s quite involved to apply.)

This residency I am teaching a workshop where I’m covering all of kidlit. I had to create a video lecture (75 slides, 38 minutes of video, many hours of actual work), pick several readings, create discussion questions, and come up with an idea for a live discussion. It turned into way more work than a normal residency workshop would be. But I did everything and it should go well. Fingers crossed. I’m hoping nobody is overly bored by it. I know some people aren’t big fans of writing for kids. The readings I gave them were all super-short except I added the first chapter of the first Harry Potter book (as a middle grade example) and the first chapter of The Hunger Games (as the YA example). The discussion we’re going to have will cover a bit on all the readings (I’m going to see what people say in the discussion) and be mostly focused on what people remember reading as kids and/or what they remember of reading to their own kids.

Other than preparing for residency, I’ve been kind of taking it easy lately. I even started learning watercolor painting. I’ll probably post something about that next time, unless something suddenly changes and I have book news.

Review: SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson

SHOUT book coverIf you know anything about this book, you know it’s important. Anderson has already written one important novel about sexual assault—Speak—but this is her far more personal memoir, written both to explain how she came to write Speak and simply tell her story. In SHOUT, she writes in verse, which made me wonder how I could possibly read it. Although I know this is weird, any time I see poetry, I get all anxious and can’t pay any attention to what I’m reading. So I had concerns. But then I found out there was an audiobook version—read by Anderson herself—so I checked that out and started listening. It didn’t sound like poetry; instead, it sounded just like someone telling a story, which made it completely accessible to me.

The first part of the book is really about her growing up. She didn’t have an easy childhood, but it wasn’t all about the rape she experienced just before starting ninth grade. She also had struggles with her parents, who had struggles themselves. She spent her senior year on an exchange program in Denmark, so much of the section is about that. She finishes off with her years just after finishing college. The second part is where the story really comes alive. Here, Anderson talks more about misogyny and sexual assault and the impact they have on everyone. She also addresses ideas for what we can do about it. She talks about the many speeches she’s given at schools around the country and how she isn’t always received with appreciation by faculty and administrators. Because, after all, “those of kinds of things don’t happen here.” Nevermind that “here” is by definition part of everywhere, which is exactly where it happens.

I highly recommend this book for everyone. It could be life-changing.

Review: The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook

The Hanging Girl book coverI’ve been reading a lot more YA suspense lately, partially because there’s more of it coming out, and partially because I’m interested in trying my hand at it at some point.

Eighteen-year-old Skye Thorn is a fake psychic, something we learn immediately. She is good at reading people, which helps her pull off the trick. She does tarot readings for a little extra cash, even though what she really needs is some Serious Cash. So she gets involved in a kidnapping plot to get some of the money she desperately needs. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go exactly to plan and leave Skye a nervous wreck and having to improvise a bit. Although the main twist is a little predictable, how it came to be is not (at least, I didn’t think so).

Skye a slightly unreliable narrator. I mean, we know she lies and she isn’t totally open with readers in the beginning. This makes it an interesting book where the suspense keeps on going. There are several twists in the story, one relatively close to the beginning and a couple near the end. But what really makes it work is the characters. Skye is engaging and pretty unusual for a YA main character, I think. Her best friend, Drew, is very sympathetic and supporting, though she’s a little oblivious about what Skye’s life is like. The other major secondary character I’m not going to name because it would give too much away, but the character is also complex and intriguing. We get a few chapters from this character’s point of view, as well, which adds to the story. There are several other good characters that are very real. Her mom in particular is interesting, and also a source of embarrassment for Skye. And the tarot and psychic aspects of the book are fun even if you don’t buy into it at all.

If you’re looking for a YA thriller with an unusual and unreliable narrator, give this one a try. Note that the paperback version has a different title: One Lie Too Many. (I think this might be a British version, though this is what comes up in the Amazon search.)

Reading Challenges (2020)

Pride book coverNormally I’d post something about my writing, but there isn’t much to report so I thought I’d announce to the world my commitment to a couple of additional reading challenges for 2020 (I always do the Goodreads one—last year and this I committed to 110). One I started a while back (King County Library System’s 10 to Try), but the other (Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge) I just started.

For the 10 to Try, here are the categories and the books I’ve either already read or plan to read for it:

  1. Retelling of a fairytale or myth - Geekerella by Ashley Poston
  2. Teaches you a new skill - TED Talks by Chris Anderson
  3. About a journey - The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
  4. With a friend - not sure yet
  5. About a person you’d like to meet - Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton (I’m aware she’s dead)
  6. About nature - Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick
  7. About music or a musician - Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star by Tracy Thorn
  8. About current events - The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy by Anna Clark
  9. Recommended by KCLS staff - On Writing by Stephen King
  10. By an author whose gender is different from yours - Fables: The Dark Ages (Vol. 12) by Bill Willingham

SHOUT book coverFor the Read Harder Challenge (which is, in fact, much harder), here are my planned (and one already read) books:

  1. A YA nonfiction book - The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
  2. A retelling of a classic of the canon, fairytale, or myth by an author of color - Pride by Ibi Zoboi
  3. A mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman - Fake ID by Lamar Giles
  4. A graphic memoir - Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney
  5. A book about a natural disaster - Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
  6. A play by an author of color and/or queer author - How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel
  7. A historical fiction novel not set in WWII - The Horse Goddess by Morgan Llywelyn
  8. An audiobook of poetry - SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson
  9. The LAST book in a series - The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
  10. A book that takes place in a rural setting - Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen
  11. A debut novel by a queer author - Texts from Jane Eyre by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
  12. A memoir by someone from a religious tradition (or lack of religious tradition) that is not your own - Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman
  13. A food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before - Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine by Edward LeeThe 57 Bus book cover
  14. A romance starring a single parent - Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai
  15. A book about climate change - Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
  16. A doorstopper (over 500 pages) published after 1950, written by a woman - Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  17. A sci-fi/fantasy novella (under 120 pages) - “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
  18. A picture book with a human main character from a marginalized community - The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan and Tom Knight
  19. A book by or about a refugee - How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana and Abigail Pesta
  20. A middle grade book that doesn’t take place in the U.S. or the UK - The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
  21. A book with a main character or protagonist with a disability (fiction or non) - Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
  22. A horror book published by an indie press - We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
  23. An edition of a literary magazine (digital or physical) - not sure yet (I have several to choose from)
  24. A book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous author - #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Whew. I’ll let you know at the end of the year how I do.

Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

When We Collided book coverWhen We Collided was at the top of my stack of mental health-related books, so I picked it up this week. Fortunately, it isn’t an issue book—it’s a good story with two main characters in very different situations who “collide” and their lives are forever changed, as the title implies.

Vivi is aptly-named—she’s a vivacious and boisterous girl with a fairly unconventional artist mom who allows her a lot of freedom, which she takes full advantage of. The two of them have temporarily moved to a small coastal California town. We know that there’s something going on with Vivi because every day she throws a pill into the ocean rather than take it, and it’s pretty clear that it’s related to her mental health. And as the book moves along, it becomes clearer what her mental illness might be. When the book opens, she is already in love with the town, has a job at a pottery shop, has made friends with some of the older locals, and is ready to meet someone her own age.

Enter Jonah, a seventeen-year-old who’s been forced to become prematurely adult due to the death of his father, the breakdown of his mom, and the existence of three younger siblings (plus two older). He meets Vivi when he takes his youngest sister, Leah, to the pottery shop, and Vivi befriends Leah and basically inserts herself into their lives. Jonah’s father ran an Italian restaurant with another guy, and Jonah has inherited his father’s interest in and talent for cooking. So Vivi’s first visit to their house is an opportunity for him to show off his cooking skills (though he cooks every meal every day, so this isn’t out of the ordinary). He and his older siblings take turns taking care of their family, while Jonah also covers shifts at the restaurant.

Vivi’s and Jonah’s connection is immediate and believable. They each need something from somebody because they’re both sort of falling apart. Vivi’s mental illness is ramping up while Jonah is feeling the weight of taking care of his siblings more and more every day. Both of them are very compelling characters with great character arcs. The book paints a very realistic picture of the experience of bipolar disorder, both from Vivi’s perspective and from Jonah’s, which I thought was valuable.

I recommend this for anyone who likes to see realistic teen characters go through a lot, but come out even stronger.

Review: Geekerella (Once Upon a Con #1) by Ashley Poston

GeekerellaThe idea of this book is really fun, if you’re into any kind of geeky fandom. And it’s all wrapped up as a retelling of Cinderella, which is cool.

Elle, short for Danielle, lives with her stepmom and two stepsisters, all of whom are mean to her, as you’d expect. She works at a vegan food truck called The Magic Pumpkin. And she’s a huge fan of a show called Starfield (something she shared with her dad before he died), which was first filmed some time in the past and is going to be remade now. Elle is very serious about the show and even runs a blog about it. She’s working on going to the next con in Atlanta, the one her father started. She wants to enter the cosplay contest in her dad’s old Carmindor costume. Elle’s horrified when pretty-boy Darien is cast in the reboot’s lead role, Prince Carmindor. No way can he do the role justice, because he can’t possibly know enough about the show. She rants about it—and Darien—on her blog.

Unbeknownst to Elle, Darien is a fan of the show, even though he has to pretend like he isn’t because it doesn’t fit his image. His father—and manager—is constantly breathing down his neck to keep the perfect image.

The two of them start texting, each having no idea who the other is, when Darien finds Elle’s dad’s old number—which Elle picks up because she inherited her dad’s phone—and tries to get out of doing a signing at the con. They find they have a lot in common regarding Starfield, and ultimately get as close as two people can over texts.

These are all good things, and enjoyable enough, but I did have a little trouble with the book. I felt like too many things relied on coincidences, unlikely behavior, or on situations that were easily fixable. Even the black moment, when it looks like their possible relationship is over, comes about because of something kind of unlikely—but more importantly, it was easily fixable with one more text, which for some reason was never sent.

So although I did enjoy reading the book, I didn’t find the story entirely credible. Still, if you are into any sort of fandom, this may well resonate with you, as it has for a lot of people (it has 4 stars on Goodreads with almost 40,000 reviews and 4.5 stars on Amazon with a few hundred reviews).

Shakespeare… Or Not

So I was supposed to write a review this week, but I didn’t finish the book I’m reading, so it will have to wait until next week. Instead, I’m going to share with you something interesting I ran across on Goodreads. Goodreads has this feature called Similar authors. If you go to my author page, you can find the link Similar authors under my books. I was curious what they would say.

Apparently I am most similar to William Shakespeare.

Under him are a bunch of authors, including several award-winning ones.

Somehow, I feel like their conclusion is a bit questionable. What it probably means, most likely, is that Shakespeare’s works are the most commonly read among all my readers—so I guess my readers are a bit more highbrow than I am.

Wend f'rth and seeth what thee findeth.

Wrapping Up the 3rd Semester

My third semester is wrapping up, with just a couple things remaining to be done. Then all I have left for the degree is the thesis—both the critical and creative parts. Both are in decent shape, though I have opened back up the first half of the creative portion because of  something I’m writing further along the timeline, which necessitates changes all through what’s already written. But I should have that done before the fourth semester starts.

Now I’ve decided to pursue something even more: a PhD in creative writing. There is only one (maybe two) in the world that I can apply to. The US does not have any that are specific to creative writing—you can do a significant creative portion of your thesis in some English PhD programs, but none of these are low-residency/distance. But Bath Spa University in England (near Bath) has one and importantly, they are open to young adult writing (there’s another in England that is low-residency but specifically not open to any writing for children). So I’m going to apply to that. Applications are not due until next May, so I’ve got plenty of time (though the application isn’t easy, either). The dissertation (actually called a thesis in the UK (weirdly, they call the Master’s-level equivalent a dissertation)) is part creative and part critical, like for the MFA. The creative part is book-length (about 80,000 words or 300-350 pages), and the critical is 20,000 words, so about 80 pages. One difference from the MFA is that the critical part has to contextualize the creative portion. I’m not 100% sure what that means, but I’ll have to figure it out in the next year.

There’s not much news in the Finding Frances world. I’m still not seeing many purchases and I’m still having trouble getting reviews. At this point, I’m especially in need of reviews, more than purchases, honestly. I do have a list of book blogs that I am going to send review requests to. I’m also planning to try to get it reviewed in some Oklahoma newspapers (this was my dad’s idea, actually).

Finally, if you want to see a little interview with me, check out last Thursday’s post on The Wild Rose Press blog.

Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

The Cheerleaders book coverI’ve been reading more suspense and thrillers lately, partially because I’m interested in turning one of my books into a suspense so I need to study up, and partially (of course) because I enjoy reading them. This was my first Kara Thomas book, but she apparently has some others, so I will be checking those out.

The book’s main character is Monica, whose sister was the last of her school’s five cheerleaders to die five years earlier. The first two were killed in a strange car accident that seemed to have no cause. The second two were murdered, with the murderer being killed by police (Monica’s stepfather) the next day. The final one was Monica’s sister, Jen, who killed herself—presumably out of despair over the other deaths.

Early on in the book, Monica stumbles across her sister’s old phone, stashed in the bottom drawer of her stepfather’s desk. There are also yearly anonymous letters saying

Connect the dots. Find the truth.

Monica doesn’t know what to think, but she has the guts to contact the number of the last call on Jen’s phone, which took place the morning she killed herself. And this kicks off Monica’s search for the truth. She figures out who the phone number belongs to and learns some critical information from him. She makes a new friend in the process of investigating and the two of them undertake some risky tasks.

The book also offers Jen’s point of view in some chapters (Monica has many more). This provides the reader with a little extra information, but it isn’t until the very end that we see how it all ties together (or doesn’t).

This is an engaging book with a few twists that surprised me. I won’t say it’s perfect—there were a couple of connections Monica made that I thought were a stretch, but not enough to keep me from wanting to know what happened. So if you enjoy YA thrillers, you should check this one out.

Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish book coverStarfish is the story of Kiko Himura, a 17-year-old Nebraska girl with a Japanese-American father and an obnoxiously white mother (who’s a total narcissist, but the way). Kiko’s mom has belittled her her whole life for not being “beautiful” like she (the mom) is. By beautiful, she means blonde and blue-eyed. Because Kiko takes after her father physically. To white people she’s too Japanese, and to Japanese people she’s too white. It’s not just her mom—the kids at school make sure she thinks this, too.

Unsurprisingly, Kiko’s anxious and lacking in self-confidence because she believes it all. She also thinks she’s responsible for breaking up her parents. When she was young, her uncle did something to her and she told her mom, who didn’t believe her. Still, Kiko thinks her parents were fighting because of this, and then her dad left. She’s got an older brother and a younger brother, but they’re not close. So she feels guilt on behalf of both of them, too. Kiko’s mom really is a piece of work. She’s so horrible that she’s almost unbelievable—but not quite.

Kiko’s a very talented artist and has applied to an elite art school in New York as her escape plan. But when she doesn’t get in, she’s distraught. And she’s hamstrung by her anxiety. But she’s lucky enough to run into her old friend, Jamie, who’d disappeared from her life when she was eleven and sort of broken her heart. Jamie invites her to come to California with him and she decides she’ll look at art schools out there. Jamie helps her ease out into the world. With a long overdue stroke of good luck, she meets a well-known established artist who takes her under his wing. By chance, he is Japanese-American too, and he helps her connect to her Japanese heritage for the first time. She and Jamie get closer, but there’s something that’s keeping them apart, too. She’s staying with him and his parents, and his parents are fighting and Jamie won’t tell her why. Eventually, everything comes to a head in a way I didn’t expect (but absolutely worked) and we see Kiko coming out of her shell.

This is a solid novel that will appeal especially to mixed-race kids, I’m guessing. The references to art throughout will also be particularly to those artistically inclined. But anybody can enjoy it for showing a girl finding her way.

Notes from Lockdown

Story Genius book coverThis won’t be a very exciting post. Not a lot to report. Like everyone else, I’m stuck in lockdown, going stir crazy. I usually do most of my writing at Starbucks, so it’s been a challenge to learn to work at home. Especially when I’m working from home for my day job, too. I just sit in the same chair from 7 am to 8 or 9 pm, swapping out computers at about 3:30. One nice thing that is helping me not go crazy is that some of my writing friends and I meet on Zoom every day and chat and do writing sprints. It helps to talk to other people.

What I’m most busy with is my thesis (specifically the 15-20 page paper about a craft element in novels). I had to totally rewrite (well, reorganize) it this weekend. It’s due a week from Friday so I’ve only got one weekend after this one to finish it. It isn’t the final final version, since I can still work on it during next semester, but I don’t want to have too much to do on it.

I’m also working on planning out the final-to-be-written Sarah story, which will be the second-to-last in the collection. I’m using a method outlined in the book Story Genius (pictured here), but I signed up for the Story Genius Workshop, which is a self-paced online class that walks you through everything step-by-step. There are videos explaining everything, and then long worksheets to fill out. They also have the option to pay extra for a coach, someone who will give you feedback on every step. I applied for that and am waiting to hear how much it costs. We’ll see if I do it. One interesting thing about this process is that it is going to require me to change some things in the earlier story, especially the long first one.

I’ve also got Ugly out with a bunch of agents, though nobody’s biting. I keep getting form letter rejections. The gatekeepers hate me.

Review: TED Talks

TED Talks book coverThis is going to be an unusual review for this blog. Obviously I usually review YA fiction. But today, since I didn’t finish another book this week, I’m reviewing an adult fiction book that I think might still be of relevance to my readers. A lot of people have to get up on a stage—at work, in school, in church, wherever. This book could make you more comfortable doing so, and help you make a bigger impact.

To make my boss happy (plus for some personal improvement), I joined Toastmasters at work. For those who don’t know, Toastmasters is an organization that is supposed to help you become a better public speaker and leader. You basically choose a pathway and make several assigned speeches on the way to reaching a leadership and speaking improvement goal. I gave my first speech in late February (on becoming a writer 🙂 ) and then before I could give my second speech, COVID-19 happened. So I thought I’d keep up with the learning and picked up the book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson (“Head of TED”). If you don’t know about TED, you should: it’s an organization that runs conferences where people of all stripes give short talks. Check out ted.com to see some cool talks on almost everything imaginable.

Anyway, on to the book. Although Anderson frequently refers to TED-specific talks, he tries to generalize to other speaking venues, as well. He talks about the importance of a speech’s content being the best part of your speech, rather than obsessing about speech physical logistics, like where to stand and what to wear. It does address those things, because they do matter, but it has a major theme throughout: be yourself and be as comfortable as you can while up on stage. Much of the book (about 40%) is about making the talk itself solid and spectacular. Content matters. He talks about building ideas up and having a through line, avoiding common traps, connecting to people, narrating, explaining, persuading, and making revelations.

The next 45% talks about logistics, including whether or not to write a script and even possibly memorize it, or to try to wing it (hint: probably you shouldn’t wing it). He also addresses visuals, practicing, thinking about the impression you’re trying to make, mentally preparing, setting up, and having a real presence. The theme of being yourself and being comfortable is important in this section, too. Basically, you shouldn’t try to do something that will make you extra uncomfortable, since you’re (probably) already stretching out of your comfort zone to give a speech in the first place. Finally, he wraps up with some generalized thoughts on talks, and the importance he believes they have to our global, interconnected society.

So, I’d recommend this book over a lot of the other speech books out there because of the balance between content and logistics and the emphasis on comfort (many other books focus on logistics). If you think it might be helpful to get some tips on talking in front of people check this one out.