When I mentioned to an author friend that I had added in a slideshow to my readings, she looked at me as if I were named Captain Obvious. “I’m doing that,” she said. “You have to do that.”
What she meant was just a rotating screen of slides as a backdrop, while I am actively preparing a PowerPoint with narration, but the point is clear: People want to be entertained! Maybe back in the old days, before internet, you could draw them in with just a reading and a book signing. Sometimes you still can, but that depends on the book and how many people in town know you. I’m a little sad about this, and a little disturbed: shouldn’t good writing be enough? It’s a larger symptom of people today who can’t be still one second without entertainment…but I digress.
Because everyone likes a good slide show. I cringe as I put mine together, because in my agency all trainings are infested with PowerPoint, and most presenters put all of their text on the screen and proceed to read it to us. There’s a reason we call it “Death by PowerPoint.” So I try to make mine interesting. Less text, in fact barely any. I will show my pretty Alaska pictures and talk about what life was like as a kayak ranger there, and how I came to base a book on a landscape.
Despite my misgivings, it turned out to be fun to put together. I remembered a lot: the old tractors we used to find, remnants of abandoned coastal lives. Hiking with an aerial photo to a lake that we were sure nobody had ever reached before. The mysterious and wild places we saw, and how they changed all of us.
There’s a lesson here for me; people want a show, and as writers we have to think about giving it to them. Would you go to a book signing, even if you liked the book, or to a show with pictures? I have to admit I would probably opt for the show. It’s hard to pry me out of my house after a full work day to sit some more. If I could figure out how to do book readings by kayak, I would do it! (Hmm….)