Monday, January 20, 2014

Interview with Author Jill Vanderwood

Jill Ammon Vanderwood is an author and speaker from Utah. She is best known for her award winning, nonfiction books, What’s It Like, Living Green? Kids Teaching Kids, by the Way They Live and Drugs Make You Un-Smarter, co-authored with her teenage granddaughter, Savanna Peterson. This book was the winner of the Mom’s Choice Award. Jill is an active fundraiser, taking on environmental and literacy causes. Along with her husband, who is a professional Santa Claus. Jill, as Mrs. Claus, visits with hundreds of children during the Christmas season.

Welcome back to my blog, Jill. You have a very interesting book here. Please tell us about it.

Shaking Behind the Microphone is an anthology with stories from people who suffer from the fear of public speaking, and those who have overcome this fear and found more success in business and everyday life. I also include stories from those who perform and have experienced stage fright. I have included several experts in the book who give great advice for those who suffer from the fear of public speaking and the last section of the book is Nontraditional Treatments for the Fear of Public Speaking. I have an interview with a Certified Nutritionist who found that changing your diet can help you handle anxiety; and a Certified Hypnotist who claims a 90% success rate in treating the fear of public speaking. 

Wow! You really researched this subject, didn’t you! Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I have suffered from the fear of public speaking since elementary school. It wasn’t until I was a grandmother that I started writing books. As a member of the League of Utah Writers, I would enter my stories in contests and then say over and over, “Please don’t win!” Because I knew that if I won I would have to get up and read my piece in front of a group.

In Shaking Behind the Microphone I tell about my struggles in dealing with the fear of public speaking and the path I took to overcome this fear, which had held me back most of my life. I now teach workshops for the League of Utah Writers, speak at schools, including assemblies, Boys and Girls Clubs, drug rehabs, church groups and many more. I have been on TV, and many radio shows and newspaper interviews.

One of the first things I decided was to never turn down an opportunity to speak. I volunteered to teach my first workshop and then I panicked and joined Toastmasters. I had six months to learn to speak in front of a group. I also contribute much of my success to what I call my “Leap for Literacy.” I went skydiving from 12000 feet to raise funds for the Literacy Action Center in Salt Lake City. After that, I could always say to myself, “You’re not afraid of these people. You went skydiving.”

Although, I’m not recommending skydiving or any other risky behavior to anyone, I think facing something else you are afraid of will certainly help you face your fear of public speaking. Go to the top of a tall building and look down. Hold a snake or let a tarantula crawl up your arm. Any of these should do the trick.

Wow! Jumping out of a plane sounds like it would do the trick. What kind of research did you do?

While I was suffering from the fear of public speaking, I looked for articles and books on the topic but didn’t find one that helped me, so I decided to write a book that told how others handled their fear. First I looked up the statistics on the fear of public speaking. says that three out of four people suffer from the fear of public speaking. I then wrote a free ad on HARO which read: “Are you among the 75% of people who suffer from the fear of public speaking?” I got a great response to that ad and interviewed the people who contacted me. My next ad asked for public speaking experts. Altogether there are stories from 20 contributors.

I think it’s interesting when authors add real life situations to their stories. Who were the contributors of your book?

The stories are from a law student; a woman who’s first speaking experience was at TED Global; Rabbi Manis Friedman; several businessmen including Baron Canon, who swore he’d never take a job which required public speaking; Rocky Finseth, a lobbyist for Carrera Nevada whose job was in jeopardy unless he learned to speak in public: Dan Nainan decided to take a comedy class to help overcome the stage freight he experienced while doing product demonstrations onstage for Intel Corporation. He did so well as a standup comedian that he left his job. He has since performed comedy for President Obama and Donald Trump. We have advice from four-time Emmy Award winning news anchor, Jan Fox who has interviewed four presidents. She started her own business as a public speaking coach. We even have a story from SAG nominated actor and producer, David Barckhoff. Each time I would finish an interview, I would say, “This one is my favorite.”

Wow! I think this book is a must for authors who hate public speaking. Thanks, Jill, for an awesome interview.


Sonja said...

This is a book I need. I have to do lots of presentations for my work. It is a hard thing for me!

Gail Pallotta said...

Hi Jill,

What a worthwhile subject to write about. It should help lots of people. I'm a bit timid about speaking also, even though I do it. So far, I haven't tried sky diving, but it's an interesting remedy.

traveler said...

This book would be helpful and a great resource since I shy away from many situations. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a book that could help most authors when they have to get up and do a presentation.

Ashtrie Karana Putrie said...

Speaking is an awkward situations for me. It is a thing about being an introvert :p

Laurie C said...

I get very nervous about public speaking, but am even more nervous about skydiving! ;)

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulations, Laurie! You're the winner of this awesome book. Stop by and give me your email so we can get in touch with you.

Laurie C said...

Did I win this book? I really need it! I forgot to leave my email address. It is lauriec AT baystatera DOT com (to fool the spammers). Thank you!

Savanna Peterson said...

Yes Lauri,
Both Linda and I have tried to contact you.
I need a mailing address.
my email is
Jill V.