Friday, November 11, 2011

How I Became a Speaker - After Being Afraid Until Age 64

Gabriele D'Annunzio speakingImage via WikipediaBy Linda Leone

I'm going to start by telling you the story of when I was not a speaker and in my mind never would be.

It began when I was a Sophomore in high school. It was 1962 when I was 15 years old and lived with my older sister and her family in a remote little village called Bridgeville. Bridgeville was in the middle of the Redwood Forest, about 20 miles east of Fortuna, CA where I went to high school.

Public Speaking was a required course at that time and I'll never forget the first week of being in that class. Our teacher decided our first assignment would be impromptu. Meaning he would call on a person and that person would get up in front of the class and speak about whatever the teacher decided ... we did not have the privilege of knowing what the subject would be ahead of time so we could study up on it.

Needless to say, I was extremely frightened of the thought that I would be called on. I just kept saying to myself over and over; Please don't call on me, please don't call on me. My little prayers went unanswered ... I was the second person called to get up and speak. I stood there staring at all those faces and just knew that I was going to be sick, pass out, or both; I did neither.

The teacher said "Linda, I want you to tell all of us about that garbage can that's sitting outside the window." I froze. I already had such low self-esteem, no confidence in myself and my psyche was very fragile. I was not quick on my feet. I couldn't even come up with a little story like; The cat that lived in The Garbage Can and scarfed down all the "goodies" discarded each day by all the school kids, but was unseen by the naked eye. All I could say was "The garbage can is gray. You put garbage in it. It has a lid and there is a little dent in it." After that I just stood there until all the other students began snickering and made fun of me with their not so nice remarks. The teacher finally said "Linda take your seat."

I was so embarrassed and humiliated I decided right then and there that I would never put myself in that situation again; and I do mean never, ever again. From then on, if I had a speaking turn coming up in that class I was conveniently absent from school that day; also, I failed that class with a big fat "F".

I didn't care. I absolutely hated school. That one horrifying event contributed greatly to my feelings about school and not caring whether I passed or not. Also, as I had promised myself, I never spoke in a public forum again.

Now back to present-day; I remember sitting at the computer just surfing the web for anything to do with selling books. This was in early March, 2011 when suddenly I came across a website that really caught my attention. Another author was telling how he was going to go on a speaking tour to promote and sell his book. As I continued to read I could feel my face getting flushed with excitement.

All of a sudden I felt a surge of energy go through me...This is it. I said to myself. I will become a speaker/advocate for abuse victims. And, as an added bonus, I will be able to promote and sell my book at each speaking presentation. Then, as unbelievable as it sounds, at that very moment, all the fear I had pent-up inside me about public speaking disappeared. It was a glorious feeling ... almost making me giddy with happiness.

I am not a superstitious person ... I am however, a true believer that everything happens for a reason. It feels as though I had to write my life story ... then this truly strong feeling came and took all my fear away so that I could go further and become a speaker/advocate for abuse victims.

I got on the phone right away and started calling every club and organization I could think of. On my very first speaking engagement I had no fear... I still don't and I have spoken 17 times since then and have several more presentations lined up. I consider what happened to me a "little miracle." I say that with only myself in mind.

There is no proof that it was actually a "little miracle"; I just like to think of it as one, strictly for me. I want to make that absolutely clear ... these are my thoughts only. At any rate, this wonderful calling came into my life to push me in the direction of speaking and helping others about the subject of abuse.

I know I will someday get over that astonishing thing that happened to me last March, 2011; that thing that took all my fear away about public speaking, but I don't think it will be anytime soon ... it was too remarkable!

All Copyrights Reserved
Linda Leone 2010

The story I just told is not in my book "ESCAPE: How I Fight the Demons of My Past and Win" by Linda Leone. This happened after my book was published. But there are many other stories not told in the book because if I had written about everything that had happened in my life, the book would be 600 pages instead of 200. I had to pick and choose ... a very hard thing for me to do.

The nice thing about that is now I can tell some of those stories in the form of short stories on this great website. My book is available on,, The Sundance Book Store in Reno, Nevada and of course when I am on a speaking engagement I can promote and sell my book.

I have a website that tells all about my book ... it is, I also blog and tell other stories that I come away with from some of my speaking engagements. People are always coming up to me afterwards and telling me their story of abuse. They always give me permission to write about them as long as I honor their wish and use an assumed name and not disclose their location. Of course I always do that.

Please go on my website and take a look. It also feeds into Twitter and YouTube ... sometimes I make a video.

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