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Writers and Public Speaking by Olivia Rana

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Article by Olivia Rana ©.
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In 2012 researchers at Nebraska University carried out a study, which found that public speaking was the most common fear amongst students, ranking higher than hundreds of other fears, including death! The comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who himself suffered from anxiety of public speaking, equated it to the average person at a funeral preferring to be in the casket rather than perform the eulogy!

Hundreds of books have been published promising ways to help us overcome this fear, termed glossophobia, but it is so innate, so primal that our instincts for fight or fight naturally take over. We are afraid of being rejected from the social group, being left to defend ourselves against the sabre toothed tiger all on our own.

From a young age, I can remember that feeling of being asked to read in front of my class mates, of breaking into a sweat, heart pounding, my face turning red as I felt myself being judged. It was awful, and I couldn’t imagine ever willingly wanting to put myself through something like that.

On several occasions it couldn’t be avoided – speeches at family weddings, presentations at university, talks as part of my project management job, but it was always with a great deal of discomfort. My tongue would stick to the roof of my mouth, my breath would run away with itself, I sweated and trembled. Never again, I would tell myself. Never again.

But then I published a book, and with that came the inevitable need for public speaking. How else was I going to sell my books? I had chosen to self-publish, therefore I was my own sales and marketing team. I had willingly put myself in the firing line. Yes, there was social media, and press releases, I could stay mute for a time, but then came the requests to speak at organised events, to talk on radio and TV! I couldn’t do it, I told myself. I’d mess up, I’d embarrass myself; I’d be eaten alive by that sabre toothed tiger.

I needed to have a good stern talk with myself. When I was fifteen years old I told everyone that I was going to write a book, I even wrote a declaration to that fact in one of my diaries. It had taken me almost thirty years to get around to it, to find the time, experience and skills necessary. I had worked bloody hard to make that fifteen-year-old girl’s dream come true, so how could I let her down now for fear of speaking?

I took some time to analyse and understand my fear, to realise that it’s perfectly normal to experience these symptoms. I did some research, and found that even the most practiced speaker has bouts of nerves, including seemingly confident actors like Emma Watson and Julia Roberts. But what they do is they transform that fear into excitement and energy around their message. It makes the delivery more genuine and passionate. A speech without nervous excitement, and that rush of adrenaline would be superficial and apathetic. I decided nerves were good.

So I said yes to the requests to speak at podiums in city halls, at charity events, and on live radio, I said yes because I had a message that I wanted to share and this was my chance. I talked about the difficulties of writing, and of the people who encouraged me. I talked about the idea for my book and about the central subject of child-trafficking. And to my surprise people listened, and to my even greater surprise and delight, many came to congratulate me afterwards, and to thank me for sharing such an important message! And guess what? I didn’t get eaten. I’m still very much alive!

I’m now working towards the publication of my second novel, so safely tucked away behind a laptop for now, but I know that when the time comes to doing the round of book promotions I will still feel the increased heart-rate, and the upset stomach. But, this time I will embrace it, and I will use the energy to help me to talk from the heart, and I hope my fifteen-year-old self would be proud that I took that leap.

If you are facing a public speaking challenge, check out these top tips from Brian Tracy, one of the world’s top coaches in public speaking.

(c) Olivia Rana

About Elastic Girl:

Elastic Girl highlights the cruelties, indignities and injustice of child trafficking. An enlightening and gripping read.’ Joanna Lumley

Before Muthu Tikaram is born, her grandfather murders the family’s landlord, an act of violence that shapes Muthu’s life from the very beginning.

Too young to understand the repercussions of this act of brutality, Muthu knows only that her two older sisters are given special treatment while she is forced to sell rotis on the dusty roadside, dreaming of escape.

When the family find themselves destitute and living by the side of the railway station, Muthu is sold to The Great Raman Circus of Chennai. Her father convinces her that this is the only way to help free her family from poverty, and in her innocence Muthu imagines that with her extraordinary contortionist abilities she will become a star, just like all her Bollywood idols.

Muthu’s hopes for glamour and excitement are short lived, as she is transported into a world of misery and abuse. After several years of enslavement, she plans her escape with her friend Gloria, convinced that they can make it on their own in Mumbai, the City of Dreams. Will Muthu succeed in making her name as the Elastic Girl or will her dreams turn into a nightmare?

This poignant tale draws attention to the plight of child performers in India, and on the horrors of child trafficking, but as Muthu tries to make sense of her existence, readers will discover the true strength of the “Elastic Girl.”

Order your copy online here.

15% of profits from each book will go towards the work of Child Rescue Nepal.


Olivia Rana is a writer from Northern Ireland. She self-published her first book, Elastic Girl in November 2017. Set in India, it tells the story of a young girl who is sold into the circus by her parents. Endorsed by Joanna Lumley as “an enlightening and gripping read”, Elastic Girl serves to highlight the cruelties of trafficking, but is also a story of hope and survival. Previously, Olivia worked as an IT project Manager, but now teaches novel writing through Queen’s University Belfast. She is currently working on her second novel.
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