I have been exceptionally lazy over this holiday season. When I’m not wrapping gifts, cleaning, cooking, ironing or unwrapping gifts and eating, I have been reading trashy books. Glorious!
I really must get back to writing Daughter of War and looking over the massive pruning I did for Spirit Lake Diary.
In the meantime, a fellow writer asked me the following question via email:
“Help! I have been asked to do some Canada Council readings and I need some advice.”
Here’s my answer:
A Canada Council reading is no different than any other. It just gets paid differently. Gear your reading to your audience. Ask the group who requested you what they’d like you to do.
The deadliest thing is assuming that a reading means standing up there and reading from your book. I have witnessed many of these disasters. I feel so sorry for the audience and equally sorry for the author.
When I first began doing readings in 1999, I wanted to avoid this major error so I asked Barbara Haworth Attard if I could sit in on one of her readings to see how a pro does it.
Barb is naturally shy like me but you’d never know it by her engaging performances. She has a wonderful way of interacting with her audience and keeping the presentation personal, polished, informative and oh so interesting.
Since 1999, I’ve done lots of readings. Last year I did 80 and it looks like I’ll be doing something like 150 by the time this current school year is over. Here are some quick tips:
– Limit the actual “reading” portion to a page or two at a time.
– Talk about the story behind the story — ie — how you came to write this story and what it means to you and what sort of research you did and how writing it changed who you are.
– Ask the audience questions and make eye contact as much as you can. This will ensure that you’re not boring them. You can modify your presentation if you see people nodding off.
– I always ask someone in charge to stand at the back of the room and hold up ten fingers when I’m ten minutes away from being finished and five fingers when I’ve got five minutes left. I find that I lose track of the time when I’m speaking and this really helps me focus.
And here is something I feel very strongly about but perhaps others don’t agree:
The most boring thing a person can do is get up there and talk about their “accomplishments”. Yadda yadda. Gag me with a spoon. Who _isn’t_ “award-winning and bestselling” for pete’s sake? Instead, talk about your challenges, your failures and how perseverence makes a difference. Writing a book is like opening up a vein and pouring blood on the page. It isn’t easy to write a book and it sure isn’t easy to get one published. That journey is one that interests many people.