Monday, December 10, 2012

#REVERB12 (Day 10): What was the greatest risk you took in 2012?


#REVERB12 (Day 10) PROMPT: What was the greatest risk you took in 2012? What was the outcome?

MARIA THE HUTIA (art by Halleujah Truth)
The greatest risk I took in 2012 involves publicly speaking out two times for a Bahamian hutia named Maria and other endangered animals! For several years, I had been creating illustrations for a children's book about this small brown furry rodent's (Maria) "misadventures," written by Ron Shaklee. But since I am not a scientist nor the author of Maria's tale, I found it surprising and, yes, risky I was speaking publicly about this entertaining and educational conservation story. In fact, I am scared of public speaking!

I began my first adventure in public speaking for Maria the hutia in the Bahamas on the small island of San Salvador to a group of my husband's Emory University students at the Gerace Research Centre. They work all day in the field and have classes and powerpoint lectures at night. Although I am a seasoned ESL teacher and even teach presentation classes, I had never given a presentation using powerpoint slides before (Please don't tell my students.)! In addition, I felt clumsy and tongue-tied going from the role of the artist illustrating a hutia to the spokesperson explaining what one was and why we should be concerned about her species and many others. You might ask why I took this risk of looking goofy and inarticulate? 

First of all, because the subject matter of endangered animals such as the Bahamian hutia, sea turtles, and corals is a worthy one. 

Another reason is that I was right where the story, The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia, originated. This is where it all began for author Ron Shaklee, encouraged and supported by Sandy Voegeli (longer story)! 

Professors were asking me to inform their students and children by sharing my illustrations. Learning can take place playfully providing a different perspective of field or lab work. 

Finally, I want to keep gaining new skills and expanding my abilities to take on new challenges.

Even though I was afraid, I wanted to speak out about this topic.

Was my presentation spectacular? Not really. Was I nervous? Yes. But I did it and I got through it. This risk taking presentation was seven months before the book, The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia was published, and it set the stage for the second risk I took regarding public speaking! 

My husband, Tony Martin (Chiboogamoo), an author himself (see here), suggested that I participate in the Decatur Book Festival in the Emerging Author's Tent. I laughed! He meant it quite seriously. Ron Shaklee, the author, couldn't make the book festival to promote our book and supported my husband's idea that I, the illustrator, should represent Maria the hutia! Scary! Risky!

But I signed up, registered, paid the fee, sent in my photograph and bio and awaited Sunday, September 2 at my designated time. The Decatur Book Festival's Emerging Author tent was crowded and loud. The emerging authors spoke in the corner to a focused group seated in chairs. We had five minutes to speak and ten minutes to sign the books.

I brought a prepared script of my 5 minute talk. I was going to have to SHOUT to be heard. Therefore, I had marked my script the same way I mark my language students' sentences to teach them to speak with clarity and enthusiasm. Pausing, stressing, and focus had all been planned! Earlier in the morning, I was coached by my brilliant talented husband. I was going to succeed--meet this risk head on!

Yes, nervousness struck me, but combined with the experience I had in the Bahama's and the morning practice with my Chiboogamoo, I succeeded in communicating the important ideas about our precious conservation story! And my friends told me I appeared dynamic! Wow!

One more risk taken in 2012 regarding public speaking--and for a good cause. Additional stretching of self done! Hurray! The outcome from taking this risk isn't what I expected. Unrealistically, I thought I might be a strong natural speaker (since I am a seasoned teacher). While some people might be "naturals" at public speaking, I believe now after taking these two risks in 2012 that good public speakers are made, not born. 

I would like to continue to acquire public speaking experience. One of my future goals is to have a VOICE, one that can be heard on the important matters that I speak! To take more risks!

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me. Tell me what you think about public speaking, hutias, and taking risks. Better yet, tell me about an important risk you took in 2012!

BOOK SIGNING.  This is me, Hallelujah Truth, signing copies of The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia in September at the Decatur Book Festival 2012. Part of the payoff for taking the risk of speaking publicly was getting to sell books and sign them. Did you know illustrators sign books? Wow! (photo by Chiboogamoo)
As always, thanks to Kat at "I Saw You Dancing," for managing #REVERB12. Oh and thanks to my Chiboogamoo for suggesting that I participate in the Decatur Book Festival and all the ongoing support and inspiration you provide!


  1. How fantastic. You know, Henry David Thoreau was a pencil maker by trade yet he is seen also as quite a naturalist... without much "professional" scientific training.

    Congratulations on your risk taking. Flex that voice!

    Here is my most recent reverb post....

  2. Julie! I appreciate your encouragement. Sometimes, I feel so tongue-tied when talking about important matters and a body of peers. It seems easier being a teacher and instructing, but the dynamic changes when I'm speaking on a level-playing field.

  3. Yay to you Ruth for stepping up to the plate, (or rather the microphone) and speaking about your wonderful book. As for my risk of the year, at the "risk" of boring y'all by again talking about the deep hole I dug in Vermont, that venture would again qualify as a scary one. I was under a firm deadline of less than a month to complete a 5-1/2 foot x 4' hole, to cut tree limbs and lash them to create a functional ladder, and then line the walls of the well-like hole with marble shards available on the grounds of an abandoned quarry. The idea of failure and the uncertainty of not-knowing what I'd encounter while i dug or how to work with wood and stone, or how much stamina my 66 year old body could maintain was intimidating, but I began each day with a 20 minute meditation and then took my time with each phase. I was shocked at how beautiful it turned out to be! If I was unsuccessful, I believe I would also have been pleased with my effort. Many people gave me advice, information on best tools and methods as i progressed. I am very grateful.