A few months ago, at Hallowe’en, I wrote about facing the fear and reading a story out loud for the first time at the local writers’ group. Today I read out loud for the first time at a public event – the WayWord Festival in Chester. I was invited, with the other Cheshire Prize finalists, to read my short story and answer questions.
So I told myself that this would be character-building and a great opportunity to get some practice at reading in front of an audience. And then I Googled the venue. Here’s the photo I took of it today:
No pressure, then.
When freaking out, even just a little bit, I try and do some research. Luckily I found and devoured a great blog series on reading aloud by Mary Robinette Kowal, who is not only an author but also a puppeteer and voice actor. It’s full of useful tips and very accessible; here’s the link.
I practised reading the story out loud when no-one was about. I timed it. I highlighted the dialogue of different characters, and I put marks to remind myself (where) to breathe.
And just as before, reading to writers’ group, it was OK. I didn’t faint. No-one threw anything. There was applause. People even seemed to enjoy it. Something which really helped was that I was so taken up with listening to the other stories that I didn’t have time to be nervous!
And if you’re going to be reading at an event some time, here are a couple of tips from me:
- Read the blog series above!
- Write yourself a little introduction, even if you don’t think you’ll use it. The first speaker stepped up and did a brilliant intro; so after that it was hard for the rest of us not to say a few words before launching into our stories.
- If you can, pick a bit of your story or your writing which doesn’t have too many characters speaking. I didn’t have much choice on this as there’s dialogue throughout my story…but I found that it’s tricky trying to differentiate between several characters.
- If you don’t have time to read the whole piece, look for a good point to end on. I could have read further in mine, but I wanted to end on a positive note, so I stopped at around 5 minutes because it was the best point to break the story.
- Enjoy it. I wasn’t sure if I would or not, but everyone was very friendly and welcoming. It was probably the best exposure I could have had to reading in public, on a stage, with a microphone (eek!)
See you at the next one!