Last weekend, I was one of two featured readers at the Redwood Writers' Club's Open Mic Reading at Gaia's Garden in Santa Rosa. I read Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas and shared excerpts from Cixi, The Dragon Empress and Sacajawea of the Shoshone. After the featured readings, those who wanted to read at open mic. could sign up and readings were conducted in order. I decided to read from the opening chapter of my middle grade novel in progress which I have never shared publicly before, so I was a little nervous. But it was a great way to gauge the audience's reaction, and hear how the language sounds when read out loud.
I have never been to this open mic. reading before and I was delighted by the variety of the stories (many works in progress) and the bravery of the readers. Speaking, or reading, in public is the greatest fear of most writers, yet it is expected of those of us who have books to promote. Now, writing isn't all about selling and promoting your books, but if you've put several years of toil, sweat, and tears into your project, you can't let it die on the vines.
There is no other way to get used to public reading than to read in public, and open mic events are a good way to get some practice. I won't pretend it's not scary to put yourself out there at first, so start small. Here are 5 ways to prepare yourself for a positive public speaking experience.
- Start with more intimate settings. Invite a small group of friends and family to gather in your living room, then slowly branch out (when you're more comfortable) to reading at larger, more public venues. To gain confidence, I began reading my children's books at my kids' play date groups, then Kids' Club at the local health club, then my daughter's pre-school class, gradually moving up to library visits, author visits in individual classrooms, and finally to auditorium-style school visits.
- Do a few dry runs in front of the mirror or in front of family. Practice slowing down your reading. We all tend to read too fast when we're nervous. You want your audience to hear you loud and clear, especially if they're kids.
- If you're reading longer works, like novels, and you're reading excerpts from different parts of the book, mark them clearly so you can find the passages quickly. Alternately, you can type your reading passages on sheets of paper in LARGE font for easier reading and read from there instead of from the book.
- Don't just look straight at the book or paper when you're reading. Take the time to make eye contact with your audience once in awhile. This one takes a little practice, but the purpose of doing a reading is to connect with that audience.
- After your reading, open it up to Q & A -- this is another great chance to connect with your audience.
I promise you, public reading does get easier and less nerve-racking the more you do it. So, Happy Reading and Connecting!
|Reading GOLDY LUCK AND THE THREE PANDAS at Gaia's|
Garden, Santa Rosa, CA., June 28, 2014