The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Public Readings--Do's and Don'ts

        A group of writers (poets and story-tellers) got together at a restaurant/bar recently, and I went to their public reading. I've compiled a list of (hopefully) helpful hints.

1.  If you are nervous and tend to mumble/not enunciate clearly, shave off your beard and mustache for the occasion. (Ladies, that goes for you in the hairy menopausal phase, too.) We can't read your lips with all that hair obscuring our view, and as fast and mumbly as you present, we need all the help we can get.
Give the audience what they want.

2.  You may think your twenty minutes of rambling introduction. About. Each. Poem. is engaging, but look at your audience. Their eyes are closed. Drool is coming from their mouths. They're snoring. Be aware of your audience.

3.  If you're nervous, and alcohol is available, have a drink. A glass of wine might help out with #1. Drink.  (Sorry. That's all I could come up with for that one.)

4.  Be passionate/involved in your piece. Speak with expression. Pepper your piece liberally with Sioux's favorite word. Make the crazy redhead happy.

5.  Be humble. Come up, give us a tidbit of an introduction, and then read, darn it, and when you're finished, leave the microphone. That's why we came--to hear you--and if you're good, your words will speak for themselves. Give the audience some credit.

What tips do YOU have for writers who read their stuff in public?

By the way, Linda O'Connell has almost reached her Chicken Soup goal. Is it a gross of stories (144)? Is her goal equal with her age? Find out what her next goal is, since she's about to hurdle over her current one...(Ask her.)

29 comments:

  1. You nailed it, Sioux. It drives me crazy to hear someone ramble on and on in a monotone voice, reading what feels like 20 pages. I like it when someone reads with expression, has a good sense of timing, and makes eye connection periodically with his/her audience. That's the way to keep my interest.
    Related to Linda and CS, I think they ought to just hire her and be done with it. BTW, you're no CS slouch yourself!

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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    1. Pat--If you had gone to the same reading, you would have pulled your hair out.

      Eye contact IS a big one. Thanks for adding that, and thanks for the (really undeserved) compliment.

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  2. No drink for this recovering girl, thanks. And, what exactly IS you favorite word?

    Amen to the not mumbling. Presumably, you're passionate about what you write, so let that show! But don't act like you took way too much speed before you got up there, don't go "How NOW! brown COWWW!" The best thing i ever learned is to take it slowly. Don't speed read, don't rush, don't let the words tumble over each other. Read it like every word matters, because if it's worth hearing, they do. Use pauses. Heck, I even stop to sigh or gather myself, or look skyward for a moment as if I saw angels. Audiences love me. Then I get off stage and go shy.

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    1. Shay--Well, it could be used as an adverb, a noun, a verb...It's quite user-friendly.

      Yes! Speed reading is not a good thing when you're reading in public. Pausing for a breath might make those nervous ones calm down a bit.

      (And I speak sometimes of drinking--a blender at work, drink all summer in preparation for the fall, etc. but I actually drink quite rarely and very little.)

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  3. Interesting! I've never read my work in public but I do read to children a lot in my line of work and I'd probably try to make eye contact regularly. It seems to keep kids focussed (that and the silly voices...)

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    1. Linda--I love silly voices, too. And not always when reading just with young kids.

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  4. I love to hear good readers. I have read little myself, my own work that is. Used to love to read allow to JH kids. They liked to be read to and if the story was good they would beg like younger children. Are we all children wanting a good story? You have so many more ops to read your work in your area, not many public readings around here.

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    1. Claudia--You hit the nail on the head. We ALL want to hear a great story, a well-crafted poem, just like eager kids...

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  5. Erp . . . I've never been to a public reading. Ever. Not to read, not to listen. You make it sound entertaining, though, what with bearded ladies and possible Ducky Dynasty copy-catters and alcoholic beverages. And the crazy redhead who, I assume is you which, all by itself, would make attendance worthwhile. :)

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    1. Lisa--Sadly (or scarily), right now my hair is currently more magenta than red. Every box, every color--different every time.

      They CAN be fun, but they can also be deadly-dull (at least in spurts). If you email Linda, she could give you the private low-down with specifics when it comes to Duck-Dynasty ding-a-lings and the rest of the cast of characters...

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  6. I'd add Be prepared - don't come up to the mic and be riffling through a ream of papers, or flipping through the pages of your book. Use post-it notes or paper clips to mark your starting point.

    Make eye contact (if you can) - acknowledge your audience for listening.

    Leave the clinking and clunking bracelets in the jewelry box - the noise distracts from the reading.

    And what IS your favorite word?

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    1. Kim--It's the bomb, I can say that...

      The bracelet notation is one I wouldn't think of, but it makes perfect sense. And I think those nervous ones should only bring ONE piece of paper--forget the books or the need for paper clips. That jittery shaking of a bunch of papers is entertaining (to the mean-minded ones like me) but it IS distracting.

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  7. My main piece of advice is to practice reading the piece at home before the event. It's surprising how differently words sound in your head and how they sound when you say them out loud. And I also want to know which word is your favorite.

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    1. Mary--Apparently you haven't ever talked to me for more than five minutes...It's a versatile one, I will say that...

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  8. Being on stage in my classroom, I find that even if I've written down my message, I always vary from my script. No two classes get the exact same presentation.

    Like your tips. I have none to offer. I'm afraid that if I attempted to read from my writings, my inner stand-up comedian would get loose.

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    1. Val--And what a funny routine it would be.

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  9. I haven't even worked up the nerve to try this yet!

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    1. Mama Zen--You, who used to sing in public in a band? You'd be nervous, with that much talent oozing out of your anal sphincter?

      Gimmeabreak.

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  10. Well, from the pulpit, dias, and lectern, let me say watching an old buzzard nod off is one thing, but when his thick framed eye glasses slide down his nose before his chin hits his chest and thunk on the table in the midst of your reading, it scares the crap out of you, and when said person apologizes out loud while you are still reading, it frazzles the reader. That was the longest sentence...no wonder some people tune others out :) So appreciate your coming to the sideshow.

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    1. Linda--It was a fun evening. And you really shouldn't refer to Bill as an "old buzzard." ;)

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  11. Bless you for having the cahones to speak publicly about this topic! (see what I did there?) I would love to go to more readings but most are just almost unbearable so I don't. So I miss some amazingly good work and don't get to meet great writers in person. Might I say that Saturday Writers (dot org) has a list of excellent hints on their "News and Happenings" page. Scroll down, left column.
    I know I am a low talker so I have learned to use the microphone even though I hate it. What's the point of reading if you can't be heard? And Mary is right. You may feel ridiculous, but practice! It's not a play so don't overdramatize, but if you believe your work is worthy of an audience then let it live. If not - stay in your chair.

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    1. Marcia--I love the line "let it live." That's a gem.

      (And yes, you are a clever wordsmith! ;)

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  12. Wonderful advice. I especially like #4. Moderators need to bring out the gong for readers who drone on too long.

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    1. Donna--I agree about the gong idea. Perhaps I need to be the trailblazer and bring one to the next reading I attend...

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  13. Sioux,

    I loved this piece--laughter and (learnable) tips! Thanks much.

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    1. Jennifer--Thanks. I'm glad to have provided a bit of levity for you...And you're welcome.

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  14. Great advice, Sioux - especially about the facial hair. Though I still say the best tip is to have a handsome man with a British accent read it for you. Hear that, handsome British men?!

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    1. Tammy--You are so right. A Brit or a French guy--either one--would work well...

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  15. Yes, some interesting tips for sure. :-) I think being aware of your audience is probably most important. Look up and make contact, keep them engaged. And if you see nodding, know how to tie things up quickly. Plus, leave 'em laughing.

    Somehow, I don't think you'd have any problem with that. :-)

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