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On Giving Readings

I so enjoyed my PEN reading last night — and everyone else seemed to, as well. I don't know the count, but the theatre was almost full, so my guess is about 150, perhaps more — which is excellent.

This time I followed some of the advice given in one of the workshops I had taken at the SMA Writers' Conference this last weekend. The workshop was on giving readings, by Terrence Hill, author of the delightful "Two Guys Read..." series, and a fabulous presenter himself.

His wisdoms:

  • It's not a reading, it's a performance.
  • Wear something odd, or come in costume.
  • Know exactly what you're going to read.
  • Select your reading based on the audience.
  • Select readings that form a story.
  • Offer to write your introduction.
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
  • Time your presentation.
  • Arrange for someone to ask the first question, in order to break the ice at the beginning of the question and answer period.
  • Arrive early and see what's missing. Check the room and the equipment.
  • Show your book to the audience, but don't read from it. Read from an edited print-out.
  • Write out everything, even the asides.
  • End early.
  • Prepare a closing: "Thank you for listening."

I very much like Terrence's approach. In many ways, I've been doing much of it already; he confirmed that I was on the right track. I much preferred reading from copy in 16-point type than from a marked-up book, which can be difficult to handle.

One thing I used for the first time was a spring-loaded notebook, a gift from the wonderful writer, Merilyn Simonds. Instead of a scramble of loose sheets or cards, this time I had this elegant portfolio that lay beautifully flat on the podium. It has become essential to me now. I highly recommend it.