15 May 09

Dawn of a New Adventure (Part 3)

I was travelling most of yesterday as I just gave my first presentation to a school. 100 14 to 15 year olds at Bishop's Stortford College in Hertfordshire. The jitters began the night before. I kept jumping out of bed at all hours, writing down additional stuff to speak about. I knew if I failed, I would lose the job I’d just relocated to the other side of England for. The pressure was on.

Nervous about speaking to an audience, I only ate half of my breakfast before I set off. Dwelling on how this talk was my chance to raise myself in society, I was scared of sabotaging such a fantastic opportunity.

It took over two hours – two trains, two lines on the London Underground, and a taxi – to get to the school. Once there, I met the contact teacher, Claire, a wonderful woman who gave me an invaluable prep. She knew it was my first presentation, and she suggested various techniques to engage the students, such as asking some of them to volunteer to read excerpts from my blog and book. She said some previous speakers on drugs had glorified their crimes. One had even used the F word, and she had to stop the presentation. She advised me to keep emphasising how my decision to do drugs had led to the horrible jail conditions.

The room designated for my presentation was like a drama theatre. It consisted of a stage facing rows of seats that went higher towards the back. Claire asked if I needed anything, and we set up a table to put my water and reading excerpts on. I refused a podium as I knew I couldn’t stand still. I expected to pace.

When it came time to talk, my nervousness peaked. Facing all of the little people in school uniforms gazing at me was an experience like no other. I’d prepared a detailed introduction, but my mind went blank and I introduced myself in a few short sentences that lacked enough information. Faltering, I wondered if I was not cut out for public speaking?

Some students showed up late, and I’m glad they did. I pounced on the opportunity to start again:
“For the benefit of those students who showed up late, I’ll start my introduction again. I am Shaun Attwood. I went to school in Cheshire where I did well. I went on to Liverpool University and graduated with a business degree. I moved to America, became a top-producing stockbroker, quit that, and then became a tech-stock millionaire during the dot.com bubble. But I lost everything because of drugs. On May 16th, 2002, a SWAT team knocked my door down, and I ended up in America’s toughest jail.
So how did I go from where you are today to getting a 9 ½ year prison sentence? When I was about four or five years older than most of you I took Ecstasy for the first time. The rave scene had just started in Manchester…”

I am pleased to report my speaking flowed better from there. I could still feel my tension, but I remembered the words of Dr. O at Tucson prison: “It’s all energy. Just channel it in the right direction.” Breaking it up with the students reading excerpts allowed me to take breathers, drink water, and mentally prepare what I was going to say next. Thinking on my feet, a lot of what I’d prepared to say never came out, but I had so much material to draw on I was actually still talking into the time allocated for Q & A.

The students at Bishops Stortford College were pleasant and bright. So many hands went up, there was not enough to time to answer all of their questions, ranging from the prevalence of prison rape to legal questions about my case.

Even with all of the applause, I wasn’t sure if I’d done well or not. That changed when the teachers surrounded me, and congratulated me on doing such a good job. Fascinated by my story, they had questions of their own.
The group of girls who had shown up late even stayed behind to apologise and ask me further questions.

I left on a natural high, and immediately called my parents, who popped a bottle of a champagne that night.

If you are interested in booking my presentation click here.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Halle (Saale) to visit Kathi for two weeks. She lives in the roof of a 120-year-old building in East Germany.
I’ll be blogging from Germany, including a letter from Two Tonys and the story of Smiling John, in his own words. He’s a murderer who escaped from prison and ended up on America's Most Wanted.

Click here for Dawn of a New Adventure part 2


D and B said...

We knew you could do it!

Sue O. (aka Joannie, SS) said...

You at a loss for words or uninteresting???? NEVER!!!! Have fun in Germany! Congrats!

Anonymous said...

sounds like it all went really well - well done. Kags x

Anonymous said...



Regenbluemchen said...

I am so glad. You have a good job... and I think you make this work very good. Shaun, I am so proud of you!

See you tomorrow. :)


Your Kathi xxx

Anonymous said...

nicely done shaun

glad your first gig went well- I do a LOT of presentations- usually the same thing over and over again and it does get easier and you even reach a point where you are thinking about what to have for tea whilst presenting

good luck for the future


Anonymous said...


When a very large survey asked people what their greatest fears were, death was number one. Public speaking was number two. Really glad to hear all went well.

Have some fun in Germany and tell Kathi I said hello. Blog some pictures from there if you get a chance. I'll travel Germany vicariously through you.

Take care,

Weird Al

Anonymous said...


Pippa said...

Shaun, I am so happy for you. Congratulations on everything you have achieved thus far and especially on your presentation.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else see the irony of the parents "popping a bottle of champagne"?

Family friend said...

I can't see any irony. Don't you think 'the parents' should celebrate their son's success. They've waited long enough for it.

A Nonny Mouse said...

I'm confused. I thought you were a hapless victim of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and now it turns out you are justly, or at least predictably punished for taking E in Manchester. Can you clarify please. To what extent did you deserve what you got, to what extent was it Arpaio being an a-hole?

Jon said...

A Nonny Mouse,

Yes, I broke the law and put myself in jail. Click on the link to my bio for my background story.

Arpaio also breaks the law by violating the minimum conditions for unsentenced prisoners established in federal court. Most of the inmates he houses have not yet been convicted, but the illegal conditions they suffer are worse than in the prison system where sentenced inmates are housed.

Shaun Attwood

A Nonny Mouse said...

As far as I have been able to work out to date (from your blog and radio broadcast), the extent of your devastating conspiracy against the American way was to use the phone to discuss with your friends what drugs you would like to score. If there is more, I haven’t found it on your blog.

Advancing your experience in Sheriff Joe’s guesthouse as a reason for not doing E or whatever is no valid argument as far as I can see: you might as well tour schools warning them of the dangers of lamaistic Buddhism, on the grounds that you can be jailed for life by the Chinese for practising it in Tibet.

Jon said...

A Nonny Mouse,

Yes, I was convicted of discussing drugs on the phone. The evidence against me wasn't much.

But at some point, I began to view my punishment as restoring karma for everything I'd ever done and got away with. Which was a lot over the years.

I feel part of my karma now is to expose the Arpaio regime in the hope of getting better conditions for the prisoners.

Thanks for your interest,

Shaun Attwood