Last week I gave my first solo reading. And it was in person. I hadn’t done any public reading since my short story collection came out, but that hardly mattered. There’s a huge difference between being given five to ten minutes with a bunch of other authors and having to fill an entire hour by yourself.
Would my voice even hold up? I’m an introvert, so I can go all day and not say a word to another person. Would anyone want to hear me drone on? For how long? I asked the members of my writing group and they were super helpful. One, who had read the book, thought anything from the first chapter would be gripping. So I split it in two and did some edits to cut out bits that while important later in the book, wouldn’t be missed from only the beginning.
I’ve marveled at people who can read right from their printed book. Though I’ve also seen authors turn too many pages and get lost. I print out what I want to read. Single sided, double spaced, sized perfectly for my reading glasses. Oh, and number the pages! A favorite story I wrote, “Consignment,” has a scene where a diva author gives a bookstore reading and, well, things go wrong. I was pretty sure I knew what not to do.
A friend suggested I record myself reading. I, like many people, am not fond of my voice, but it wasn’t my voice that grated when I listened to that first recording. I sounded bored. Bored, I tell you, during what’s actually a pretty dramatic scene. I’ve not only written that scene, I’ve read it probably hundreds of times, so what I thought was an emotive narration was far from it. Phoned in, you might say. So I worked on pumping up the drama, the intensity, the emotion.
I also gained an appreciation for film directors who make the actors go through take after take. There are so many ways to say even one word, “There!” And even though I thought I had it down in rehearsal, at the live reading, I felt I hadn’t nailed it. No chance for a second or third take. Move on!
A benefit of rehearsing over and over is that much becomes memorized, which makes it easier to look at the audience.
The big unknown was whether anyone would ask questions, so I was prepared with extra scenes in case the room went crickets when I stopped.
That didn’t happen. They peppered me with great questions right from the start. I had more fun talking with them about the story and writing it than actually reading the story. And I was amazed at how much they got out of what I thought were pretty short sections. I read from the opening, so there wasn’t a lot of intro needed, but right away they grasped that this would be a character-driven adventure story. Exactly my intention.
I love it when readers get out of a story what I put in. And sometimes they surprise me by seeing something I hadn’t expected but that works out wonderfully.
I’ll get a chance to share the stage at noon (EDT) on Friday, October 7 when I read with five other authors for Strong Women-Strange Worlds. It’s free and you can sign up here.
I hope you’ll join me!
More about Endurance and how to get a copy here.