1. No matter how busy and overwhelmed I was on various other projects, doing a small amount of work every day toward the library book-talk helped.
2. Fussing and fuming about having not started earlier was not helpful. If only for five or ten minutes, doing a bit of work was a better way to spend my time than fussing and fuming.
3. When I was really, really stuck, opening a document on my computer and typing a list of possible topics was a great strategy.
4. Putting together a slide show of pictures around the five or six biggest topics also helped. Audiences like pictures. (So do I.)
5. Rereading the novel (even though I didn’t have time to finish rereading it) helped enormously. In fact, opening the book and reading a few pages was a great way to put aside the fussing and fuming (again) about not having enough time.
6. I already know a huge amount about 19th century literary studies, which is, after all, the context I wanted to set this novel within. Once I had a list of topics, and had decided which ones were the most important, I had no trouble talking for an hour. The worry wasn’t merely unhelpful, it wasn’t necessary.
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) had seven children in 1852 when Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published. Yes, I presume she had household help. Yes, she said that she didn’t write it (God wrote it; she just took dictation). Even so, she had plenty of excuses not to write, and she picked up her pen and wrote anyway.