Sunday, May 22, 2011

"I Think He Meant Peep"

I recently did my very first public reading. Yay! Clearly, I am now an expert on the subject.

Okay, not. But I used to work as a corporate trainer, so I've had a lot of public speaking experience, to groups large and small. Hopefully, that experience prepared me to go forth as Author Amy and do things like: thank the folks who invited me, speak clearly and loudly enough, make occasional eye contact with the audience, smile and otherwise appropriately emote, read the material at an acceptable pace and overall, make the reading an enjoyable experience for the audience and myself. And by enjoyable, I mean brainwash those people into buying my book.

I was thrilled to get the opportunity to do this reading (thanks again, Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans!!!) and thoroughly enjoyed it. It went well - people laughed at the funny bits and did not laugh at the unfunny bits. (both equally important) The audience was engaged and attentive - thank you, room o' literate strangers!

Although this was my first time reading from my novel, I have heard other authors read from their works over the years. A few were famous, big-time writers (Robert B. Parker and John Irving) who were speaking to enormous crowds of avid fans. Some were well-known within their genre, speaking to much smaller audiences. Most were obscure new authors like myself, who brought varying degrees of charm, wit and clarity to their presentations, and were speaking to teeny tiny groups. Some of these writers were shining examples of How To Do A Public Reading. I applaud you and aspire to emulate you. Some - equally educational, if not more so - were just flat out awful. This blog post is dedicated to that latter group.

The Author You DON'T Want To Be When You're Reading In Public:

Speed Racer Author:
Speed kills. S - l - o - w it down, buddy and take a breath. Oxygen is a requirement, not an option.

Terrified Author: The quavering voice, the shaking hand, the trembling knees. Huge, unblinking eyes in a pale, sweaty face. Wow, you are dead meat up there. We, your audience, feel really bad for you and urge you to consider Toastmasters. And/or pharmaceuticals.

Overly Dramatic Author: You are not Hermione Gingold in "The Music Man." ("A Grecian urn...") (why my brain conjured up Hermione out of all the actors I could have chosen, I'm not sure, but wow, that was an awesome totally-obscure-pop-culture reference!) Less drama, please, Oscar - tweak it back to, say, local Emmy level.

I Am Drunk At 10:00 In The Morning And Adorable Author: Yes, you are. And no, you're not. If you can't do it sober, then please just stay in your hotel room. We'll have room service bring up some more mimosas for you.

3 More (Often Simultaneous) You Don't Want To Be: The Low Talker, Monotone Molly, Zero Eye Contact Author.

I can't wait to do my next reading! Maybe you'll be there, Dear Reader. If it turns out I'm delusional and I actually suck at reading in public, don't tell me, all right? Just leave an anonymous voicemail on my hotel room phone, identifying yourself as Hermione Gingold.

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