Elaine Forrestal

Speaking to an Adult Audience

Rebecca Higgie, Dianne Wolfer, Elaine Forrestal talking about combining history and fiction

As a former Early Childhood teacher I am very comfortable with talking about my work to young  audiences. Speaking to adult audiences is a bit more challenging for me. I have been asked to talk about Goldfields Girl, for 30 minutes, to the members of a Rotary Club. The question, ‘What will I say?’ springs immediately to mind. ‘What will my audience want to hear?’

Having done the research and worked through countless drafts of the book I have plenty to say. But what will my audience want to hear? How will I keep them interested and engaged for 30 minutes? I can tell them snatches of the story, but it is 240 odd pages long, and in any case they can read all that for themselves in the book. What they will want to know is why, when and how I wrote about Clara Saunders.

I have already put together the mandatory Powerpoint – pictures only so that I can adjust the length of my presentation. Skip over bits that don’t seem relevant to this particular audience, dwell on the parts that interest them most, the parts they ask the most questions about. But how do I get started? In this case I have thought about my audience and decided that I will introduce myself, then ask them a question to break the ice. I will ask them to tell me, by a show of hands, how many of them have family members who lived in the Coolgardie/Kalgoorlie goldfields area? It seems that everywhere I go at the moment people come up to me and tell me about their relatives who were prospectors, so the ice-breaker question should lead to lots of interaction from the audience – I hope. Ahead of time I will write down and rehearse a sentence to follow the ice-breaker. Probably something about how Clara, at 14 years of age, travelled for three days out into the desert to live and work among a fluctuating crowd of rough and ready prospectors. After that I will have to let Clara’s story tell itself, being aware as I do of the atmosphere in the room and the interest level of my audience. In other words wing it, and hope for the best, always being able to adjust the length, to dwell on some parts and skip over others, as time dictates. Of course I will be slightly nervous, but I will tell myself to relax and enjoy the company of interested people. Wish me luck!

By the way the Fremantle Press podcast about combining history and fiction, with Rebecca Higgie, Dianne Wolfer and me, came out this week. Here is the link:https://www.fremantlepress.com.au/c/news/11615-podcasthistoricalfiction