When my new book is published, it will be necessary for me to give presentations in front of people. So I joined Toastmasters to learn how to speak more effectively. I thought you might like to read my first speech called an Icebreaker, where we talk about our lives as an introduction to speaking. From there we begin the process of building on what skills we already have by adding things like voice modulation, good use of stage, use of overheads, telling different types of stories.
I completed my first speech last night and did quite well. I had good eye contact, seemed confident, use arm gestures to good effect, and smiled a lot. One thing I do need to work on however, is pacing. Next time I’m make my speech shorter and talk more slowly. Without further ado, here’s my speech:
Many years ago, a little girl went to school and learned the most amazing thing. She learned that by putting letters together into different combinations, you can create words. And with these words, you can make up sentences. But the most amazing thing of all is, you can take these sentences, and write any kind of story your mind can imagine. What an incredible concept. Whoever thought of this, was a genius she was sure. Is it any wonder that learning to read was one of the most exciting thing this little girl had ever done?
Of course, that little girl was me. And ever since that time, words have played an important part in my life.
Growing up in England, I was always a shy, reflective child. It wasn’t unusual to find me sitting under an oak tree daydreaming about Roman soldiers, or lying in bed at night wondering what it would be like to be dead. Not the kind of thing a little girl should be thinking about, but there you have it.
By the time I was ten years old, my parents immigrated to Canada. I remember sailing down the St. Lawrence Seaway, looking around me, thinking, “So this is Canada.” Gone were words like rolling hills, pastoral countryside, and British citizenship. To be replaced with new words like big, wild, unknown. This was to be my new home.
The first time I thought about being a writer, I was in High School. I had this idea in my head that if I was going to die someday, maybe I should collect up all the words I’d learned so far and write something. In this way, I’d be remembered. But nothing ever came of that, beyond my teenage scribblings, and letters to my friends back home.
I didn’t think about writing again until I was an adult. I just quit my job at the Chatham Public Library to stay home and take care of my children, and I got this idea for a story and decided, “I’m going to write that.” We didn’t have computers back then, so I had to write everything by hand. Then, when computers did become available, I transferred all my written words onto this new technology. That story became a book, and I sent the first chapter of that book to a writing competition. But I didn’t do very well. I was devastated and began to question whether I should use words as part of my life work.
While all of this was going on, I was taking a correspondence course in writing with a school in Washington DC. When I first thought about signing up for the course, I didn’t know how we were going to pay for it. We had a brand new house, two small children, and we were living on one salary. So I decided to talk to my husband, and guess what? I learned two new words: monthly, installments. It enabled me to complete my course, and I’ve been writing ever since.
Two years ago, I started a writing blog, and I discovered something new about myself. I like to write about strong women. With that in mind, my current novel is about a woman who loses her husband prematurely and has to reinvent herself. Along the way she learns to trust her own instincts, not to let anyone hold her back, and the most important thing of all, she learns about the power of friendship to help her move forward.
Now that my book is in the process of being published, people are starting to hear about it and become excited. It was at this time that a young man approached me and asked if I was interested in starting a mentoring program for women. I imagine a place where women can get together and talk about the phases of their lives in something I like to call: The Woman’s Journey. It was then I decided that if I wanted to talk about The Woman’s Journey, I needed to learn to speak more effectively. That’s what brings me to Toastmasters.
The way in which we use words determine how we live out our lives. Are the words positive or negative? Do we speak words of war or peace? Are we a man or a woman? What are the words of our profession? It’s important to really think about the words we use every day. Writing allows me to really think about what message I want to share with the world. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but one thing I do know, words will always be a part of this woman’s journey.