We are more than the person behind the curtain

What are writers, but mysterious figures behind the gargantuan stories they tell. For some like Shakespeare, they stay a mystery for readers hundreds of years after the stories were published. Others like Ray Bradbury step out into the world, live in the spotlight, revealing secrets of the trade to budding dreamers of the future.

A depiction of Charles Dickens giving a reading

One of the most terrifying and enjoyable aspects of being a writer is the interaction with our readers. It scares the wits out of writers because we are compelled to be loners. At the same time, the first hand experience of seeing the reader’s reaction is indescribable. Yet, for two bloggers the ability of a writer to be a performer is a heated debate.


The author of the link above defends the writer’s perspective wholeheartedly, while Amitav Ghosh disagrees. As Ghosh is a novelist/blogger, who is convinced the act of reading one’s work rips away the relationship between the reader and the book.

“The reader related in the first instance to a book, not to its writer; and writers, for their part, did not confront their audience directly in the manner of musicians, singers, actors and so on.”

The statement above made by Ghosh are powerful, but not necessarily true. Ghosh believes that the author is not meant to read his writing out loud, but simply write it only to retreat back behind the curtain. The author of the blog disagrees with the above statement because for centuries, writers have been the rockstars of the world. Not only novelists, but poets have an obligation to their writing to speak publicly.

Without the performance in front of the audience, poetry doesn’t have the power it could just read in silence.  Poetry almost solely relies on the use of sound and delivery to provide the emphasis in lieu of the extra words.  What Ghosh doesn’t appreciate about writing is the feel of the words on your lips. In addition to poetry, words flow in a beautiful way with prose. Hearing the one who created the story read it aloud is an experience that can’t be replaced.  As a long time reader, I have never had the opportunity to see my favorite authors read their work in public.

To me, it feels like I’m missing an entire part of the entertainment. Because as much as Ghosh and other authors would like to admit, stories are entertainment. They have been entertainment since the beginning of human history. Whether it is read from a printed book or spoken from memory, the author can bring the characters to life in a way no one else can. The author is the expert source on whatever he/she has written. There is no one else more qualified to bring the characters to life.  It is a privilege and a responsibility for a writer to express their excitement through a public performance.

I chose the picture of Dickens’ before I finished the article only to find that the article mentions Dickens as one of the proudest performers in writing history. He was working on his performance as he wrote the novels, creating the characters with his face. It is an amazing site to hear a poet read their writing or hear an excerpt from a novel you’ve read. The performance made is not just a money opportunity, but a responsibility to the give the story all of the potential it has. The reader deserves every possible viewpoint of the story, and nothing beats the author reading their proud work to you.

Don’t forget, the writers are not just the people behind the curtain.  They are the creators, the magic makers, the entertainers, the teachers, and the inspiration. Writers don’t just write the stories, they live them, and finally they pass the story on as if it were livelihood given to millions of loving children.


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7 responses to “We are more than the person behind the curtain

  1. I was an educator before I became a writer, so standing in front of a group of kids and talking is nothing new to me. Writing YA fiction, especially with the local historical elements, has given me many opportunities to go into classrooms and read from my books. I have yet to find an audience where everyone was bored with my presentation. Most classes had read my books because the first was nominated for the MYRCA – Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award. The list of nominees is usually greeted with enthusiasm by the teachers as perfect teaching materials. Plus, they often get to invite the authors to come speak to their class. I have been told that having me there, reading my work, helps the students better ‘see’ the written word. Like you said, Amanda, that part of storytelling adds so much to the audience. Facial expressions, hand gestures and body movements all help make the story more real. I also feel as though I have inspired many young writers to strive towards their goals just by talking about my experiences as a writer. 🙂

  2. I see your point of view, but I’m not sure that all authors are good performers. Would it spoil those favourite books if the author stumbled and muttered over their own words? I hear Tolkien was a truly appalling lecturer, but he could achieve flow and tell a gorgeous story by writing instead.

    • It’s true some writers may not be good public speakers. However, in today’s market especially with the publishers doing less to market the book, the ability for the author to go on book tours and sell the book with their performance (as they did so many years ago) is vital to getting your book sold. We can facebook and blog all we want, but getting ourselves out in front of the audience has always been the most effective way of advertising and selling the book. Nothing replaces the action of talking with the author about a particular book even if they can’t read it well.

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