August 6, 2001
Area actor, businesswoman pens self-help book for authors
by Deborah Stone
Most writers write with the desire to become a published author. Once that dream becomes reality, they realize that in order to sell their book, they need to market it themselves through bookstore visits, signings and readings.
Selling their work depends on their ability to also sell themselves and this is where many writers panic and often fail.
Their presentations often seriously disappoint would-be readers, as they are not able to make their writing come alive. This results in lackluster sales and authors who are left wondering what went wrong.
Enter "Naked at the Podium: The Writer's Guide to Successful Readings," a soon-to-be-released book, co-authored by Peter V.T. Kahle and Melanie Workhoven and published by 74th Street Productions, that cures a writer's angst about presentations and takes the mystery out of keeping audiences awake and eager to buy.
Kahle, a native of Seattle, is a working writer and past president of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. He is a former teacher and the author of two books on Shakespeare for children.
Workhoven is a Woodinville businesswoman who is also a seasoned actor and acting coach. She has appeared in major motion pictures, network television and on stage, recently appearing in several Woodinville Repertory Theatre performances.
"Naked at the Podium" is her first book and it stemmed from her work with Kahle last year.
"I was approached by Peter's publisher, Lani Jacobsen, at 74th Street Productions to help him prepare for doing some upcoming presentations about his books," explains Workhoven. "I knew Lani from a previous association and she knew I was an actor and thought that my experience could lend itself to helping Peter. I had never worked with a writer before and the challenge intrigued me. Writers approach the creative process in solitude, so when they must suddenly confront the public in a performance type situation, they get scared and clam up or become really wooden. Working with Peter was an incredibly positive experience for both of us and I think we were both surprised at how well everything went. I know Peter went away feeling better equipped for his presentations and later he told me that he had a great time on his book tour."
As a result, Jacobsen and Kahle urged Workhoven to do a workshop at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference in Tacoma last summer and it was a smash hit.
Workhoven was surprised at how open the writers were to trying out various techniques and participating in front of others.
She was, however, unable to answer their questions about how to work with bookstores, touring and other business- type details and mentioned this fact to Peter.
From this came the birth of "Naked at the Podium," a joint effort between Workhoven and Kahle to share their combined experiences and skills in order to help authors with self-promotion.
Coincidentally, the two had similar writing styles, which was ideal, as the publisher had decided that the book needed to be written in one voice. They worked on an outline of chapters and then went off to write their separate sections, coming together periodically to read each other's drafts and provide feedback.
The book is due out in early August and according to Workhoven, it is unique in its subject matter.
She says, "There are tons of books available on public speaking, but there is really nothing out there about how a writer gives readings and sells himself during his presentations. It surprised me that there wasn't anything covering this niche and yet, there are so many writers all over the world who are faced with this situation and basically unprepared."
In their book, Workhoven and Kahle offer practical tips, solutions and illustrated breathing and vocal exercises useful to writers, or anyone, who must present themselves to a live audience.
Such elements as eye contact, pitch, pacing, rehearsing and warm-up routines, presentation design and preparation, appearance, setting up the venue, engaging a wide variety of audiences, staying focused and handling question-answer sessions are discussed in a warmly humorous style that is easy to read and process.
The nuts and bolts of bookstore etiquette, travel and closing the sale are also covered.
To promote their own book (once it is available in bookstores), the authors plan to hold presentation makeovers for writers at various venues.
"I think it will be an effective way to give life to our words," comments Workhoven. "It will hopefully get writers interested and excited about doing their own presentations and engage their curiosity about the book."
Workhoven has definitely been bit by the writer's bug and hopes to pen another book in the near future.
She says, "I am toying with some ideas now and one of them is regarding a children's book. I've always wanted to do one, so perhaps now's the time to start it."
In addition to her literary pursuits, Workhoven works for the Street of Dreams as director of communications, continues to coach drama students, give workshops and act in the occasional theater production, in addition to being mom to her son Matthew.