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October 23, 2007

One Million Dollars

My life as a cabdriver/writer changed dramatically in 2004 with the release of my first book, Hackie: Cabdriving and Life. Until then, my writing was, by intention, almost entirely anonymous. Although the "Hackie" newspaper column had been around for many years, I never attached a photo to it, and I turned down the occasional request for interviews by the local media.

But, when the book came out, I realized I had to appear publicly to help sell the darn thing. I couldn't afford to be coy if I wanted to move the merchandise! So, I began to do book readings at bookstores, schools and organizations, along with TV and radio interviews.

I've gotten better at public speaking over the last three years. In the beginning I was so nervous that I couldn't even take a drink of water during my presentation lest the bottle shook so tremulously that the audience would catch on! But, like anything else in this world, you can improve on any activity by repetition and paying attention; slowly, but surely, I began to relax and enjoy the ride.

Part of the problem is that writing and speaking are surprisingly dissimilar activities. Just because I had the ability to express myself with some verve and clarity while sitting quietly and tapping at a keyboard doesn't exactly translate to standing in front of a room and talking out loud. But, as I said, I worked at it, and I learned and improved.

In a couple weeks, I'll be appearing at a creative writing class at CVU High School. More often I'm asked to speak at college classes, but I really enjoy being with teenagers.

A couple of years ago, I spoke at a high school class in Concord, New Hampshire. It was in a tough, working-class neighborhood, and don't ask me how they even heard about my book down there. I was introduced; I read a story; I spoke briefly about my approach to writing; and then I opened it up for Q & A.

The audience was a sea of hooded, bored faces, with a few scary-looking pierced noses in the mix. Finally, from the back of the room, a rugged, pocked-mark young man stood up and leveled a stare right at me. He wore baggy sweat pants and a Boston Patriots T-shirt. He asked, "How much'zya get paid for writing that book?"

Without missing a beat, I looked right back at him and said, "I got one million dollars."

I can still recall the sound of his jaw hitting the classroom floor.

October 23, 2007 at 07:38 PM in A Cabdriver's World | Permalink


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yay! you deserve one million buddy! and you were made for public speaking - you got charisma baby!

Posted by: Eva | Oct 23, 2007 11:53:55 PM

I agree with Eva. You rock, Jernigan. Keep it up!

Posted by: AustinDriveGuy | Oct 24, 2007 11:26:49 AM

Thank you Eva and ADG for your hearty endorsements. As far as charisma, Eva, mine has compared to left-over oatmeal. So, just heat me up, pour on the maple syrup and enjoy!

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | Oct 24, 2007 12:05:23 PM

Yo Hackie,

I saw you speak at First Night, New Year's Eve. I really enjoyed the talk. You spoke about the art of carving an elephant and how it relates to the way you write.

I think about that quite often. In many situations I've thought to myself ... "just take away everything that isn't the elephant ..." It's helped me to let go of some excess ego, some foolish pride, judgment of others ... of course. I'm still a lousy SOB ... but perhaps just a little bit less of one.

Anyhow, it was a good talk. And I know that you enjoy speaking in front of people ... because you must have lost a small fortune that night ... giving a talk instead of giving rides to a city packed with revelers!

Best to ya, mate!

Posted by: Anon | Oct 25, 2007 12:18:09 PM

Yo, Anon - thanks for those kind words. And, that's about as practical a phiolosphy of life as I've heard, "Let me today be a slightly less lousy SOB than yesterday." Speaking for myself, if I could accomplish that on a regular basis, I'd really be making progress in life. See ya at First Night!

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | Oct 25, 2007 5:14:39 PM

When's the next time your going to be doing a reading? I have both of your books and would love to get an autograph if that's possible. Just curious.

Posted by: Lizzy | Oct 26, 2007 1:52:55 PM

The next Hackie reading will be at First Night (December 31st) @ 4 and 7pm @ the First Congregational Church, across from Rite Aid downtown. After each reading, I sell and sign books and, if you can make it, I would be honored, Lizzy, to inscribe each of yours.

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | Oct 26, 2007 2:29:43 PM

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