If I had an agent or publicist to find venues for me to give talks about my books, it would be wonderful. However, my opportunities for speaking engagements have come from a mixture of luck (being in the right place at the right time), chutzpah and aggressive cold calls, and having contacts from a growing network who are connected with various organizations and groups interested in Chinese American history. Different talks are often interconnected in unexpected ways rather than independent events. For example, Hazel Wallace, a retired microbiologist from the Long Beach Department of Health and graduate from California State University, Long Beach, happened to attend a talk I gave to its College of Liberal Arts Emeriti where I had taught for many years.
Then she later attended a different talk I gave at the Cerritos Library, a talk that was made possible by my association with the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California as well as by a contact I had who was active in the Cerritos Chinese community.
Hazel enjoyed my two presentations and as a member of the Friends of the Signal Hill, CA library arranged to have me invited to speak there. When she learned of another talk I was giving in Irvine, CA., she urged attendance by Rosemary Thompson and Stanley Yon, two members of an organization she was a member of, United States-China People’s Friendship Association (USCPFA).
I should note that the attendance for this event was weak, with only about 9 people, including 4 colleagues and my wife. Needless to say, this occasion was a demoralizing low point, but fortunately the talk was very well-received by the USCPFA visitors because their endorsement helped me get invited subsequently to speak to the USCPFA chapters in Long Beach and Atlanta. The following year, I was invited to speak at their 2012 National Conference in Washington, D. C. and 2012 Western Region Conference in San Gabriel, CA.
I took advantage of being in Washington, D. C. to arrange to speak in Chinatown at an event sponsored by several organizations including the DC Chapters of the Organization of Chinese Americans, National Council of Chinese Americans, Citizens Alliance for Chinese Americans, and the 1882 Project.
This unexpected reversal of fortune made me feel like the Phoenix arising from the ashes of my disastrous Irvine experience.