Public reading for a writer can be a time of great excitement or intense terror depending on the writer and the stage of experience. Last weekend (04/27), I had the pleasure of reading at Biddle’s Escape in Wilkinsburg, Pa for Saturday Night Stories. I have Samantha Barrett to thank for this opportunity because I absolutely love every opportunity to practice reading aloud because it is one of the important aspects of being a writer. Sure the whole writing a book thing is necessary, but how do you build a following with your readers if you can’t show them who you are?
By reading in public, of course! If you had asked me to read my work aloud before enrolling at Carlow University, I would have said “keep on trucking.” The fact is that the publishing industry has passed the publicity torch unceremoniously to the author. We are now plagued and at the same time blessed with the chance to hold the future in our tiny, ink-stained hands.
The cost, however, is that each writer must be willing to entrust the audience with their secrets. The stories aren’t secret because they can be published. Instead, the author is sharing the intimate way they know the characters, the voices he/she has given them in private, and the joy that comes with being proud of one’s writing. For this particular reading, I was tasked with the “assignment” so to speak of reading up to 25 minutes. One of the most important points to remember when choosing a piece for your reading is that it is okay to go under your time (as long as it isn’t too much under). It is not acceptable to go over. This does not leave time for questions and takes away from other readers. Simply put—keep on or under your time so that you can show the best aspect of you in that short time. Practice timing yourself before hand in front of your friends or in my case, your cat:
Also, the clothing you choose is just as important. Sure, we were in a casual coffee house, which normally means clothing can be as well. Nope. Think again. You should dress how you want your readers to see you. My goal is to show I’m put together and professional when reading to prove to my readers it is not a struggling artist that creates good writing, but one that is intent on success through their work. It can be achieved with one swift motion—dressing like every reading matters. To your future readers, your public readers are their introduction to the unpublished work and getting to know you as an author.
Finally, work on your presence in front of the audience by keeping mind the following and GOOD LUCK:
Smile. Smile. Smile. Smile even when you think you are because chances are, you aren’t smiling enough. Be happy that you can share your work with others it is a special moment to be cherished.
Take deep breaths and relax. Let your confidence show a little. It’s okay to show off while reading and be humble afterward.
Wait at the podium or microphone for the applause to be done. Bask in the limelight while you can. The applause is meant to show appreciate, and leaves time for people to ask questions. If you run off the stage, no one will have the chance to ask interesting, thought-provoking questions.
Always check to make sure everyone can hear. What’s worse than an author you can’t understand—one you can’t hear. Speak clearly and loudly for the people to hear the piece you have striven to perfect for them.
Slow down. Take your time and savor the words in your mouth. As you will see in the video of my reading below, I rush through the first section of my short story, and you can’t hear it as well as when I get into my “groove” towards the middle. It is better received if the audience can ride along with you through the story rather than try and catch up as you race ahead.
So, I leave you my darlings with the video of my reading. The short story is called “Stone Bridge Angel.” I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed reading and writing it.
Happy Reading and Writing!