Tips for Reading to an Audience
So I've been doing a lot of readings lately. You may not be in this boat, but in case you are or will be, here are some lessons learned.
1. Wear cute boots. Or...whatever gives you confidence. I always wear the same pair of Old Gringo boots. Hideously expensive, they were an impulse buy, but they are covered in flowers and I love them. I feel good in them. For the love of everything holy, don't try an untested outfit.
2. Pick your selection carefully. Recently, in Pendleton, I chose the first chapter, because I thought it might entice people to see what happened next. While this wasn't a terrible choice, the selection I usually read seems to capture people more. In the future I will read the same one.
3. Goes without saying but most people read too fast. Slow your roll.
4. Don't stare fixedly at the page. Look up at the audience. I see people doing this as they read, but it's a practiced, cursory glance. Don't do this either. Really look. Don't look in the same place every time (a lot of people do this).
5. Don't apologize. "This is rough....This is a work in progress...this might go over the time allotted..." Cringe. Just don't.
6. Be prepared for questions. They will probably be things like, what is your writing process? What is your favorite book? Who inspires you? Don't be a deer in the headlights. Prepare for these--they are almost all the same.
7. Say thank you when you finish. Less and less people come to these, so it's nice when people actually do. Which brings me to...
8. You may want a hook. I am going to try a short presentation with Alaska pictures at my next readings. I know an author who does a Nepal slideshow for his book. People want to be entertained and sometimes your marvelous reading isn't enough.
9. It's better to be under time than over time. Time your reading. I read to my cats. They like it.
10. Be kind. At one of my last readings there was an open mic. People got up to read what they had written. One of the featured writers and her entourage left before this started. Really? These people listened to your reading. You can't spare ten minutes?
Also: if nobody comes to your reading because it snowed two feet, don't take it personally. It's just another funny story to tell later!
Feel free to comment on my Facebook page if you have other tips!