No More Sitting On The ‘Reserve bench’

If you follow me on facebook, twitter, even instagram, you might have seen the occasional picture of me, grinning like a maniac, in front of an audience of similarly manic, arm-waving, happy folk (although usually there’s one lone woman, sitting there , arms folded, steadfastly refusing to take part – bless her).

I take these photos perhaps once or twice a week – whenever I’m asked to entertain a Women’s Institute, or a U3A, or a Townswomen Guild, or some similar group, with tales of my writing adventures.

People sometimes ask me how I got into the public speaking lark. I blame my Dad.

Years ago, my father used to run a U3A ‘discussion group’. Each month the group would invite someone along to speak on whatever topic they liked, and then afterwards a discussion would ensue. That was the idea anyway. My Dad loves a good discussion. In reality someone would put the kettle on, a packet of biscuits would be emptied onto a plate, and twenty minutes later my Dad would be washing cups and stacking chairs in the corner, wondering why no-one had actually ‘discussed’ anything.

Dad used to try and plan his group’s programme a good year in advance, presumably in the hopes of attracting a few new members with his trove of twelve tantalising topics. But a year is a long time. Stuff happens. And every now and then a speaker would cancel on dear old Dad, and he’d be forced to do some frantic phoning around in order to find a replacement.

Which is how I got my first gig.

Out of sheer desperation Dad called me and asked if I could step in and do a talk. He’d even decided what my topic would be! Could I speak for thirty or so minutes of “how banks make their money” – thanks very much – see you Thursday – don’t be late.

Now fortunately for me, I had at this point been in credit card banking for about twenty five years, the last ten of which was as a freelance consultant. I could have spoken for several days on how my clients separated the man on the street from his hard earned wedge. But I concentrated my talk on some of the sneakier, lesser known, less ethical tricks, that go on in the banking community.

My talk was a huge success: There was almost a riot when I announced that “in a few months” the banks would be announcing the ‘end of cheques’. “How will I pay the milkman!?” exclaimed one woman – at which point, for the first time ever, a proper discussion ensued. Dad was pleased as punch.

From that moment on I became my Dad’s ‘reserve man’. Each year, for about three years, I’d get a phone call whenever a speaker cancelled and would always be told what my topic would be. For instance, I did a talk entitled “How will I pay the milkman?” – forty five minutes about, amongst other things, how the banks really wanted to get rid of cheques, but at the last moment had changed their collective minds. I promise you it was more interesting than it sounds.

But after a few years I was fed up with being the flippin’ understudy. “Dad,” I said, “I want my own slot in the programme, but more than that, I want to be able to pick my own topic!”

“What do you want to talk on?” asked Dad.

“How to do everything, and be happy,” I replied.

“Hmmm,” said my Dad. “I’m not sure anyone’s going to be interested in that.”

Several years on and I’ve given that same talk about two hundred times.


If you’d like to hear me speak, or if you’d like to invite me along to your group or society, drop me a line here, or visit my speaker’s website; PeterJonesPublicSpeaker.com

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Turning failure into possibilities – WTFHIBD episode 6

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Blimey! Has it been 9 months since I wrote one of these WTFHIBD things?? Where does the time go? Actually that’s kinda the point of these WTFHIBD posts; to tell you exactly what I’ve been spending my time on.

Let’s start with GOALS.

My GOALS

2014 turned into something of a damp squib for me. Whilst a lot of good things happened, on balance it was pretty much ‘the year of disappointments’. People often tell me I’m too tough on myself, but as summer rolled into autumn all I could see was failure, failure, failure… in every aspect of my life.

But around January, and as I sat down to set my GOALs for the year I somehow managed to summon some of the fight that I’d lost in previous months, and although my 2015 goals didn’t look a whole lot different from previous years, perhaps I altered my approach to them, because even though it felt like I was starting again, at the same time the only way was up; I’d already failed at everything – it would be hard to fail even more. Success was actually the easier option.

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I BECAME ‘SELF-HELP GURU TURNED NOVELIST’

Having watched my debut lad-lit, rom-com novel  – The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl – climb the charts in September… only to come crashing back down to earth again… I took the somewhat odd decision to start sending it out to agents and publishers again. On the one hand this seemed like a bad idea; I would be trying to sell a book that was already published. On the other, I could point at lots of nice reviews, the fact it did rather well during it’s first promotion, and my previous non-fiction successes. Surely that would make me, and the book, an attractive proposition?

Amazon 2015-07-09 at 12.28.14Well, six months later and I had indeed got myself a new agent… and in turn a publicity deal with amazon!

The book underwent another edit, the cover got brighter, and after a little help from Kylie Minogue (sort of), amazon made it part of their July 99p Summer Reads promotion. It’s back up near the top of the charts …and it’s doing ok! Better than ok!

If you fancy a chuckle, as well as keeping me in the book business, now would be a very good time to spend a quid at the world’s biggest bookstore.

I STARTED MY NEXT BOOK

One of last year’s many failures was a five part serial that I wrote for a particularly well known woman’s magazine. After a full sixteen weeks of consideration, the fiction editor of magazine-that-cannot-be-named decided that it wasn’t really ‘real-world’ enough for their readers, and that she was going to pass up the opportunity of publishing it.

In the same week however, my new agent decided that actually it was a cracker of story – and could quite easily be expanded into a full length novel. My next novel. And so, Facebook pals have been subjected to almost daily word count updates, whilst readers of my other blog have been perplexed by various posts about how I use excel spreadsheets to write

selfieI STARTED GIVING MORE TALKS

One of my few successes last year were the number of talks I was asked to give.

Whereas previously I’d been giving the odd talk to Women’s Institutes and Town’s Women’s Guilds – suddenly the U3A, the Rotary Club, the Trefoil Society, and numerous independent clubs and societies started to invite me along based on recommendations from those who’d heard me speak elsewhere.

As the year ended I realised that public speaking is pretty much one of the things I love most… and so I came up with a second talk (entitled: How I Met Kylie Minogue) and offered it to all those folk who were kind enough to invite me along the first time. The result is I’m now doing a talk at least once a week (this week I’ve done three!) – and whilst it’s hardly a living, it has relieved a little bit of the pressure I’ve been putting myself under to make a living from writing alone.

If you’d like me to come and talk to your group or society – drop me a line

My NOW List

foggsLet’s move on from GOALS. What have I been doing for fun? (Not that writing isn’t fun – but you know what I mean…)

The NOW List is chock-a-block with exciting things that I’d absolutely love to do… sadly, most require time, money, often both, and I have neither.

That said, whilst I still haven’t managed to visit the Cook Islands, or visit Rome again, or anything that requires a plane trip, I have ticked off many items that I could do relatively cheaply, in around my local area. And some of those things included…

  • A visit to Mr Foggs of Mayfair. A strangely wonderful place.
  • My quest to find the strangest, experimental theatrical performances once a month – in the past few weeks I’ve seen improvised puppet shows, naked people rolling around in food, and a disturbing monologue about fantasy movies…
  • A visit to a junk shop that I’ve driven past many times and always wanted to go inside
  • A day at the beach with my very own luxury beach hut at my disposal
  • An evening at one of London’s Roof Top cinemas

But enough about me

How about you? What have you been up to? What NOW List items have you managed to tick off? What goals have you set yourself or achieved? Feel free to drop me a line, here or on facebook, or post a comment below.