Anything out of the ordinary leads to its own bit of nervousness and even anxiety.

Most of the time my presentations are down pat, almost scripted. I’ve designed them so that they carry their own story arc and involve a range of emotions, tragedy and humour, not necessarily in equal proportions, but each offsetting the other. The times when people will laugh will make the thoughtful sad parts all the more poignant, or at least that’s what I aim for.

With Wanting Mor I naturally decided to hone in on the relationships fathers have with their daughters (and children in general).

I talk about the parallels that Jameela’s story has within my own extended family.

I got the idea to ask teens I was presenting to at one point how many of them knew of someone whose father had run off with another woman. Now I do this regularly. Often one third to half the group will raise their hands.

But in Rimini, I’d be having a translator.

The problem with translation is that it can interfere with the flow of a presentation. It’s a ‘variable’ and any ‘variable’ is not usually a good thing. I’m quite sensitive to that. As a storyteller, I use the cadences and rhythms of my voice to reflect the mood I’m projecting at any given point of the presentation. It’s hard to do that when you have to keep remembering to pause so that the translator can do her job.

She was another petite lady named Susanna Soglia, with an infectious smile. My my how petite and trim those Italian women were!

Susanna had done her homework well! She had printed out pages from my website and told me that she’d been reading my blog and knew about Pepe (my Mexican translator!).

What impressed me was her thoroughness.

Her method was quite different from Pepe’s. She didn’t do the simultaneous translation. Instead while I talked she jotted down notes that looked like the scribblings of shorthand. It was fascinating, but I had to keep from staring and focus on what I was saying and what was being said by the others.

And then when the host of the panel, a television personality was speaking, she whispered into my ear the translation as he spoke so I would be up to speed on what was going on.

It was very distracting. Somehow I wanted to listen to what the host was actually saying even though I couldn’t understand it. I guess it’s natural instinct that you listen to somone when they’re speaking.

It was definitely was not the best circumstances to be launching a book under. Made me feel quite gauche and intimidated.

And of course I’m conscious of the audience watching my reaction to what I’m being told and my publisher is sitting in the audience watching the whole thing.

Oh, and did I mention the tempest that had suddenly whipped up outside as if to join in the conspiracy against me?

I presented in the Musee della citta (City Museum) that used to be a church, the floors were those wide wooden planks that had been refinished, and the outside was old brick fitted together some lengthwise, some widthwise, to form a kind of bumpy texture. At any other time I would have been examining the displays.

Thunder boomed several times during my presentation. At first I ignored it, but there was a clap that was definitely too loud to ignore, so I just stood there for a moment, with a goofy look on my face, and waited for the sound to die down.

The goofy look made the audience laugh and when I continued, I felt more comfortable than I had before. It’s so nice when the audience laughs with you.

After my part, my fellow panelist Giulio Cristoffanini spoke about the work they’re doing in Afghanistan. He’s part of a group called Emergency. Their website is and they have put up 29 clinics.

Susanna translated for Giulio and his story was fascinating. How they’ve kept their operation independent of any military campaigns to the point where they don’t even arm themselves. Because of this the Afghans know that with this group there are no mixed agendas and so far they’ve been relatively safe.

I think it takes a  LOT of courage to go into Afghanistan without arming yourself. Kudos to them!

When my presentation was done I asked my publisher how it went. It was interesting. She did what many other people have done under the circumstances. She turned the question back on me, asking me how I had perceived it.

And I thought maybe this asking ‘how did it go?’ is a sort of fishing for compliments. A speaker knows intrinsically how it went.

From the attentiveness of the audience, despite the booms of thunder and the inherent distraction of translations, they were there with me the whole time. Even the younger members, the ten and eleven year olds sitting in the front row. They were definitely listening. I had managed to keep them engaged.

Alhamdu lillah, it went well and afterwards people came up to have their books signed, teacher librarians told me how much they enjoyed my session.


It went well.