PowerPoint is an essential element of my day job but many dread the thought of sitting through slides of bullet points and falling victim to ‘death by PowerPoint’. But it’s my comfort zone and needn’t be boring if it’s used in an interesting way. My buddy, Anne Glennie, gave me an excellent book as part of my Christmas package of pressies (she also had postcards made with a line from my novel and filled a Christmas tree bauble with quotes from the story (now that’s what I’d call a thoughtful gift!)
The book, Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds, highlighted that the best presentations revolve around human stories and that images with very minimal words are most effective. I kept this advice in mind when I was asked by my cousin, Jane, to speak at the Holy Cross Women’s Guild in Croy (in desperate need to fill her programme of speakers). My connection with Croy, a small mining village in North Lanarkshire, is that it’s where my dad was born and brought up as one of a family of fourteen (yes, you read that right – fourteen!) children. He told me and my sister Marie many stories of his childhood, some funny and some sad but all highly entertaining. When he died suddenly over eight years ago, I was devastated to realise that I’d never taken the opportunity to write these stories down and so lots of them died with him. For my talk to the ‘guilders’ I showed family photos and used images of places like Moniack Mhor to help to illustrate how I’ve developed as a storyteller like my dad and gran.
I retold some of these stories to the women who’d turned up at the chapel hall to hear the ‘surprise speaker’ and I hoped it was a pleasant surprise to listen to my stories and follow my writing ‘journey’. Public speaking is my day job so I wasn’t nervous about standing up in front of the group. But this was my first ever gig as a writer and also in front of my auntie Rachel, auntie Sadie and cousins Jane, Anne S and Anne P so I felt under pressure not to disappoint them. I’d given myself the title as ‘writer’ in my introduction so I wanted to prove I could live up to it.
It was also a challenge to keep the interest of a diverse age range of women who hadn’t chosen to come to hear me and none of whom are writers and some not readers either. I needn’t have worried, as my dad was a Meechan, the family connection meant they were a very forgiving audience and I felt genuine warmth from the women.
At the end, many of them spoke to me to say that they were proud that I’ve achieved my dream of having a book published after all these years. A sense of identity is a key theme in my novel and being surrounded by loving folk who are happy to see me achieve my goal was a great reminder of who I am and that family is what matters most.
How important is the support of family and friends in your writing?