Keeping Up Appearances

This year, a new phenomenon has entered my life.  People have started asking me to appear at places.  In public.

That's a funny business and no mistake.  It's also a terrifying business, as public speaking doesn't come naturally to me, to say the least.  Hell, speaking to more than one person at a time doesn't come naturally to me.  Many writers are writers because they're way better at writing than talking (all that lovely, golden time in which to think of the ideal written sentence!), and I'm one of those.

The phenomenon pretty much began with this year's Big Finish Day and continued when I got a call from Sophie Jackson at the Cambridge School of Art.  Sophie wanted to know if I could come over there and be interviewed and/or give a lecture to her film students.  I ended up doing both, and despite my raging nerves, it was a really good experience.  Lots of fun.  First of all, in a small theatre at the school, I screened the first eight minutes of my first produced feature, Stormhouse.  This received a good reaction, including the big jump and laughter I was hoping for, right at the end.  Then Sophie interviewed me about scriptwriting and film-making, eventually opening it up for questions from the floor.

After lunch, I was installed in a classroom which is, funnily enough, slightly more intimidating than the more formal environment of a theatre.  My lecture, 10 Things That Make For A Better Horror Film, even ended up incorporating a Powerpoint presentation and a couple of video clips (from John Carpenter's The Thing and the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre!).  I was pleased to see that, although the lecture wasn't compulsory for students to attend, the majority of people who were at the theatre interview came along.  After all my quacking, my vocal cords felt like they'd been sandpapered.  Nevertheless, tremendous fun.  It was great to meet those seriously switched-on students and have a proper chat with some at the end.  If you're considering attending the Cambridge School of Art, I can recommend it - it boasts a nice, laidback atmosphere and a whole section of the place is brand new, being no more than a few months old.

After Cambridge, came London.  The London Screenwriters' Festival, to be precise.  A fine event, which I attended in 2007, 2008 and 2009, before missing a year after the event changed hands. I'm happy to report that the festival is in ruddy health - it felt both organised and energised.  I spoke on the Fantastical TV panel alongside Paul Cornell (writer on Doctor Who, Primeval and many more), Adrian Hodges (Primeval co-creator) and Philip Palmer (noted SF author).  As you might imagine, I felt like an imposter, but was determined to contribute, having conducted some research on the state of the TV industry with regard to genre fare. Amusingly, I later discovered that both Paul and Philip felt like imposters too, which is ludicrous - I can only assume they were trying to make me feel better.

The session went really well, with lots of (hopefully) practical advice flying around and a good interaction with our healthy audience (well, there were quite a few of them - don't know how healthy they were).  The session was filmed, so I believe festival attendees should be able to see it online at some point.  Loved it, and enjoyed hanging around for the rest of the day, during which I finally got to meet the walking sparkplug that is Robert Thorogood, the man who created BBC One's fine series Death In Paradise.  All without a prior TV credit too, so he's a great example and inspiration to us all.  He's also the ultimate poster boy for The Red Planet Prize, which made it all happen (and that competition is opening its doors once again for 2011/2012 - get in there).

My next public appearance (now those are four funny words to write, let me tell you) is this Wednesday, November 30, at London's Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue, 6pm.  I'll be appearing in that fine behemoth of a store, among various other writers who contributed to The Brilliant Book Of Doctor Who 2012, signing that magnificent tome.

I should warn anyone planning to attend the event that my signature will half the value of the book.  Luckily, everyone else's autograph will quintuple it - look, there's Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Tom MacRae, the book's editor Clayton Hickman, designer Paul Lang and everyone else listed here on Forbidden Planet's page for the event.  Should be a hoot!

So that's all tremendous fun.  I'm still much more used to attending other people's public appearances, though.  Why, only this week, my young lady Esther and I went along to Waterstones to meet North Norfolk Digital broadcaster Alan Partridge, who was signing his extraordinary new autobiography I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan.

The queue comprised over 300 people, but we'd managed to get there in time to be numbers 108 and 109. When we finally arrived at the Partridge table, he was resplendent in a purple jacket and cheery, seeing as he'd already been signing for an hour.  My only stipulation to Alan, as he signed our book, was that he didn't draw a cock, to which he agreed.  We had a chat about Suffolk ("I'm from Sheringham," Alan told us, "which is a great place, if you want to kill yourself"), had our photo taken with the great man (I don't think I've ever seen that facial expression on me before - must be The Partridge Effect), then bounced gleefully off into the night to find the nearest pub.  Now that's what you call a public appearance.


My Amazon-acclaimed ebook How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everyone Else is out now on Amazon UK, Amazon US and  You can also get a Triple Pack of files (PDF, ePub, Kindle/mobi) direct from me.  Full details here, you splendid individual.


lipsticklori said...

Public appearances? How exciting! If you have any tips at all on public speaking, do let me know. However, I'm glad to hear that you didn't find it as scary as you thought you would. That is very reassuring, I have to say.

Pondering coming along to the signing. Would it be terrible selfish to buy myself a Whovian Christmas present?

Lee said...

My latest appearance in public was a quick trolley shuffle around the co-op, which was exhausting, so my hat's off to you.