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The value of experience

Author headshot of Carol Burnside, aka Annie Rayburnby Carol Burnside (aka Annie Rayburn)

While watching The X Factor tonight, I was struck by how many of the contestants said they were petrified that first time on a big stage, but that they’d grown so much as singers and performers through their experience on the show. Mind you, the ‘live’ shows haven’t even started yet, but they’d gained experience and in the process, confidence in their abilities.

That got me to thinking about a recent experience of mine. I was part of the PFHT workshop panel at the Georgia Romance Writer’s Moonlight & Magnolia’s Conference. I will admit to a modicum of nerves before the event, though it did help to have my PFHT sisters on the panel with me. We presented our information and even managed to add a little bit of humor to it, got a laugh and a lot of smiles. I noticed people taking notes while I was speaking. There’s a very real possibility they were bored and doodling, but this is my story, so they were taking notes. Believe it or not, people found the information we gave valuable and at the end, we got several questions. Success!

Previous to the conference, Susan and I had holed up in her lake house for some quiet and writing time. We also brainstormed two workshops. Since then, we’ve developed the outlines enough to submit both to next year’s Romance Writer’s of America Conference which will be held in Atlanta. At the time we were talking about it, I could see myself presenting them online – no problem. After all, I’d be behind my computer, my fingers easily correcting the mistakes before my answers went out to the public. In a live setting? What comes out of my mouth might be a surprise to me too. Oh, the pressure!

photo of Susan Carlisle and Carol Burnside (aka Annie Rayburn) in evening wear at GRWNow that I have a little experience, I have more confidence. I also have writing experience and have gained knowledge over the years that others might benefit from. The crowd didn’t fall asleep. No one got up and left (that I saw), so I feel confident enough to try it again. What do you think? Do these two Southern Belle’s look like they might know enough for someone to take notes again?

Tell me about an experience you had that gave you the confidence to do more or bigger things.  Because it’s nearly fright night and my novella, Phantoms & Fantasies begins on Halloween, I’ll give an e-copy to one lucky commenter!

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Marilyn Baron - October 30, 2012 - 7:00 am


I was taking notes! As a member of the PF&HT blog I was in the audience and I thought you did a great job with the workshop. I hope you get to conduct a workshop at Nationals.

I found that after a small publishing house accepted my short stories and after I had won some writing awards, it gave me more confidence to self-publish and put one of my novels out there. Now, another publisher is going to publish one of my novels. Once you have your work out there and people respond favorably to it, it gives you the courage to continue. Small and large successes along the way keep you positive and convince you that you can make it.

Sandy Elzie - October 30, 2012 - 7:43 am

I took the necessary training to be a CPR instructor for the American Red Cross about 20 years ago. The first class made me very nervous …I was teaching a room full of teachers who needed to be certified due to a change in the law there…but I made it through w/o anyone realizing it was my first class.

It gave me the confidence to later go to the week-long training to become a CPR Instructor trainer…teaching others to teach CPR classes…and that was even more fun.

After that, I took the college classes to become a medic and even worked for 2 1/2 years, part-time, for an ambulance company.

Pam Asberry - October 30, 2012 - 8:55 am

You guys did a GREAT job at the M&M conference. I am proud to know you!

I used to speak in front of groups of home schoolers; that gave me the courage to do a presentation at the state piano teachers conference last year. Now I dream of speaking in front of 1000 people. It’s on my bucket list. Maybe after I am a successful published author… ;-)

Thanks for the encouraging post, Carol!

Debbie Kaufman - October 30, 2012 - 9:35 am

Experience is such a great teacher. Getting up in a room full of 7th graders as a first-time teacher was a defining moment for me. I was their 3rd teacher that year, an unfortunate circumstance for us all! However, those first words a student spoke to me on that day moved me right past nerves and into full teacher mode. I never looked back and had a trying but successful year. Now, after years of standing in front of rooms full of teenagers, I find I have an ease in front of people that has been invaluable in many situations.

I guess I shouldn’t leave you wondering about what those motivational words were. The Little Darling smiled at me and said, “We ran the first two teachers off and we’ll do the same to you.”

Unfortunately for him, prophecy was not his gift :)

Carol Burnside - October 30, 2012 - 12:10 pm

Exactly, Marilyn. There’s nothing like confirmation of talent to boost one’s confidence. I think that went a long way with those singers, several of whom were quite young to have that opportunity. I can’t imagine being a teenager, with all the insecurities that come along with that time, and trying to be really successful at anything with life-long effects. Yikes!

Carol Burnside - October 30, 2012 - 12:20 pm

Sandy, that sounds like fun times. Thanks for sharing.

Carol Burnside - October 30, 2012 - 12:21 pm

Aw, thanks, Pam. I really wasn’t all that nervous once I got up there. It’s amazing how fast time flies when you’re in the hot seat. I bet you’d be great up there.

Carol Burnside - October 30, 2012 - 12:23 pm

Debbie, what a challenge. I’m glad you rose to the occasion and showed “the little darling” (sounds kinda like ‘bless her/his heart’ sentiment) what’s what.

Sia Huff - October 30, 2012 - 3:07 pm

Oh Carol, you got bitten by the bug. Go for you & Susan. I know your W/S will be wonderful. No nerves showed at M&M. You all did great.

Carol Burnside - October 30, 2012 - 7:45 pm

Thanks, Sia. The more I delved into the workshops Susan and I planned, the more I realized I had something to say. That feels empowering. :)

Susan Carlisle - October 30, 2012 - 8:37 pm

I hope people determine my knowledge based on what I say and not my looks. I’ve got my fingers cross for the workshops being picked up.

Tamara LeBlanc - October 30, 2012 - 8:46 pm

Hello, hello!!
I’m very upset that I missed the PFHT workshop. I had wanted to go and even told Tammy that I’d be there, but I had forgotten all about a previous commitment and couldn’t attend. I know I missed a fantastic class.
I really hope you and Susan get chosen to do an RWA workshop. And all though you were worried about the state of your audience, I can bet they were all riveted on every word you ladies spoke.
I suppose the experience that has given me confidence to do bigger and better things has to have been landing an agent. Nicole really believes in me and my writing and with her words of encouragment I’ve written blurbs for 2 more books in a series she plans to propose very soon. I’ve never written blurbs so quickly, and I’m pretty proud of how they came out. I can’t wait to write the books!
Thanks for sharing with us!
Best wishes,

Vonda Sinclair - October 30, 2012 - 11:08 pm

Way to go, Carol! I didn’t know you were teaching a workshop. I’m so proud of you! Wish I could’ve been there. Best wishes on the next one and getting booked for one at Nationals!

Carol Burnside - October 31, 2012 - 2:31 am

Hi, Tamara! Congrats on the quick blurbs. Those are difficult. Fingers crossed for your agent’s success in pitching for you. We’ll be looking forward to reading those books.

Carol Burnside - October 31, 2012 - 2:32 am

Thanks, Vonda. Ours was a panel workshop on how to develop a group blog. Thanks for the good wishes. Susan and I are hoping…

Carol Burnside - October 31, 2012 - 2:59 am

I’m hoping both our workshops get picked up, Susan. :D

Maxine Davis - October 31, 2012 - 1:56 pm

I’m late to the party, Carol/Annie, but was out of town yesterday visiting an aunt. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation and thought everyone was fantatic and well-prepared. I hope you and Susan perform, er, present in Atlanta. I’ll be there taking notes.

Linsey Lanier - November 1, 2012 - 8:11 am

Sorry I’m commenting so late. I loved that PFHT workshop. It was so good! I would have never known you were nervous, Carol. You looked so calm and self-assured.

When I did my workshop on self-publishing several months ago, I was more nervous than I’d ever been in my life, but afterwards, several people told me they really got a lot out of it and I was on a high for several days. I might do another workshop…

I’d encourage you to do another one, Carol. And of course, Susan’s the queen of workshops so you can’t go wrong with her as a partner. :)

Carol Burnside - November 2, 2012 - 3:37 am

Thanks, Maxine. I hope we get to present too. Looking forward to having you in ‘class’.

Carol Burnside - November 2, 2012 - 3:38 am

I’m sorry I missed your wkshop, Linsey. If only I lived closer…

Susan and I developed a 2-hour wkshop and a 1-hour wkshop. Hopefully, the RWA committee will see value in one or both.

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