I thoroughly enjoy talking to groups of people. I began doing it in high school, when I entered area-wide public-speaking contests. After graduate school it became my professional career for more than 40 years as a member of the faculty at several universities. While I found college teaching consistently stimulating and rewarding, I also enjoyed the experience of addressing my peers at professional conferences around the world, speaking to military officers at places like the Air War College, and even, in retirement, bringing the joy of music to young students as a docent for the Washington National Opera.
Writing a Murder Mystery
More recently, now that I am staying out of mischief by writing traditional murder mystery novels, I have started scheduling talks in schools, public libraries, and even more informal settings where I do book signings.
This is very different from standing in front of a class, but every bit as much fun. It may be even more satisfying, inasmuch as everyone is relaxed, not worried about taking notes, and typically ready to ask the kind of questions that we can kick around for awhile.
I find that talking about my books gives me a chance to do two things. One is to talk about the craft of writing a murder mystery. When I first tried my hand at fiction, not that many years ago, my only guideposts were the books I had read. I learned by doing, and it was a challenge, albeit a welcome one. As a result, I like to share my thoughts on how a story gets put together—or at least how I go about putting it together (I’ve learned that there is no one right way to do it). A typical question is whether it’s better to map out an outline first, or simply let one’s imagination have free rein as the book takes shape. Good question. But there’s no best answer.
The other thing that talking about my books enables me to do is to pull plot developments, characters, the setting, and even snatches of dialogue out of the books and use them as examples of what I am trying to do to grab the reader’s interest and hold it from the opening paragraph to the final denouement. This can not only be informative; it can also be fun for both my readers and me.
So I hope to have the opportunity to speak with many groups, and I promise that when I do the audience and I will be on a two-way street. I learned long ago that he who lectures often bores.
I’m happy to speak with all sorts of groups in the community, including students from middle school through college. Some of my past speaking engagements include:
- Luncheon for retired professors at American University
- Book club in suburban Boston
- 130th anniversary of the Public Library in Pulteney, NY (near Crooked Lake)
- Public Library in Hammondsport, NY (my fictional Southport)
As well as signing and discussing my books at:
- International Day of the Book Festival in Kensington, MD
- Artizzans in Naples, NY
- Annual Arts Fair in Hammondsport, NY (my fictional Southport)
- Annual Crafts Fair in Hammondsport, NY (see above)