These days, I am invited more and more often to do readings from my six books and to speak publicly. I haven’t suffered from anything remotely like stage fright within memory. Speaking to crowds of people has always seemed to me like the normal thing to do.
My readings are always from my six published books. My presentations with slides are on the fall of Saigon, the 1967 battle of Dak To in Vietnam’s western highlands, coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), and fiction craftsmanship for writers.
The Saigon story has always been the most popular. I’ve done it over a hundred times. I tell of my struggle to evacuate my 43 subordinates and their families from Vietnam even though the American Ambassador, Graham Martin, who didn’t believe my warnings of the forthcoming attacks, forbade me from doing so. I sent them all out with phony justifications, everything from fake home leave to phony business travel, but I succeeded in saving them all. That, plus the ambassador’s proscription against evacuation, meant that I had to stay in Saigon until the last minute and escaped under fire after the North Vietnamese invaders were already in the streets of the city. It makes for quite an exciting presentation.
I enjoy telling my stories. I love watching the members of the audience as they become more and more involved. Every once in a while, I stop talking and just watch and listen for a moment. Every eye is on me. No one is moving or speaking. The audience members are enthralled.
So I enjoy my public appearances. And I am assured that my listeners enjoy them, too.