Recently, while visiting my hometown in Ohio, I skipped off to record a radio program at the local radio station, WYSO. The program is the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas, and if you have never listened to it, you’re missing out. (You can listen to it as a podcast). Vick interviews authors on the program, and he is a fantastic interviewer. No interview is like the next—the questions aren’t canned, so he tailors every single one of his questions to not just that particular author and the author’s book, but also to what the author says in the moment, during the course of the interview. And oh, that Vick voice: smooth and soothing.
Vick was generous and gracious enough to invite me on his radio program since I have a memoir being published this month, and I arrived feeling, if not confident exactly, at least somewhat together. Although I had never been interviewed as an author, I’ve done my fair share of public speaking, and although I was given no questions ahead of time, I had my “elevator speech” memorized. For those of you who don’t know what an elevator speech is, it is a short enough summary of your book that you can say it in the time it would take to ride a few floorsup or down in an elevator, say 20-60 seconds. (All authors are supposed to have an elevator speech ready at all times. The point is to have it prepared in case you are ever asked by someone what your book is about, and it is especially handy if the person asking is a fabulous agent or editor or a famous movie director. Or Oprah. Frankly, I am waiting for Gayle King to ask me, but so far no luck.) Needless to say, since I had an elevator speech ready to go, I knew that if Vick asked a general question, I could fit in that one memorized, beautiful paragraph, and at least sound semi-intelligent for the twenty seconds it took me to say it.
I’ll be fine, I had told myself, how badly can I screw it up?
When I arrived at the radio station, Vick was there and greeted me, leading me to the recording studio. I had a skip in my step. Peter, the sound engineer, asked whether I wanted to stand or sit, and I said stand (because I am fidgety, even when not nervous). I put on my headphones, and Peter got me to talk so he could check sound, and I did, and I was thinking, It’s fine, we’re all good, this isn’t going to be so hard, right?
Then we started recording, three-two-one. Vick was standing just a few feet away, in front of his own mic, and he asked me a question, and although it wasn’t a question I prepared (for the life of me, I can’t even remember what in the world he asked), I thought, Well, I can fit in my elevator speech here. Why not? I started in on it, getting one sentence into my lovely, perfect paragraph, and then my mind went completely the way of a strong toilet flush.
I could not remember one word from the rest of that elevator speech. Not even one word. My brain was an abyss. And I can promise you that when your brain is an abyss, you look and sound a little foolish.
I stood there empty-headed, and eventually Vick must have asked something else (thank God for Vick), or I sputtered on with some other answer. It’s a blur now. All I know is eventually we went on. I froze several other times, and none of them were pretty. Every time we took a break, Vick asked me if I was okay, which I found kind and endearing. The truth is that, despite brain freeze and nerves, I was more than okay. I was having a fabulous time. I giggled, I laughed, I skipped down memory lane, and I was reminded again how lucky I was.
I’m grateful, too, for editing equipment, which they will surely need. It wasn’t perfect, but so what? The imperfections make way better stories in the end.
A special note: Today, after months of waiting, my book is being released.
In the Acknowledgements section of the book, I wrote about people who helped along the way with the living and the writing of my book, but here I want to thank Vick Mickunas for the reaching people part. He not only had me on his show but also wrote a generous, thoughtful, and beautiful book review for The Going and Goodbye in The Yellow Springs News. I cannot thank him enough, but I will aim to try.