With the proliferation of open mic nights and spoke word events, there are now many opportunities for writers to perform their work. Even if you would rather drink battery acid than read for an audience, I encourage you think again. Reading your work is a wonderful way to reach a wider audience, doubling as an occasion to develop confidence in yourself and in your writing.
I first began my writing career as a playwright, and am a great fan of actors. In my experience, the reading nights that work best are those in which actors read. It makes sense, then, that when preparing for performance writers could do worse than turn to the actor’s craft of performance. What is it that makes actors such engaging storytellers? Of course there is the stage experience, but there’s more to it than experience. The best actors assume professionalism in all performance, and that means preparation and rehearsal – of the voice, of the script, and of the work.
So here are some practical tips based on the actor’s craft designed to help you prepare for performance, so that you will be your dynamic best when standing in the spotlight:
I’m using a microphone. Do I still need to do a voice warm up? I’d recommend it. Even if you’re at the mic, a voice warm up is still going to help you calm down and get your tongue around pesky alliteration and other potential stumbling blocks in your story.
I know my story so well, I wrote it after all. Do I still need to practice reading it aloud as part of my prep? Yes. Reading silently is different to reading aloud. Even Patrick White read his work aloud (in his own room at least) to hear how it sounded. You may even find yourself tweaking things as you make new discoveries about your story.
I did everything you suggested and my first reading still sucked…
Congratulations! What you did was a really tough thing. There is no getting around the fact that often a first read is going to be a bone-shaking, gut churning, nerve-wracking experience and yes, it may not be brilliant. But you’ve done it, and discovery comes in the doing. Pin a medal on your chest and hunt out another opportunity. You might want a trusted friend in the audience, someone who understands the delicate, difficult thing it is that you’re doing and will give you honest, critical feedback without bruising your ego.
Neil Gaiman reads A Christmas Carol_
About Caroline Reid
Caroline wrote her first commissioned work for theatre twenty years ago and since then her plays have been performed, broadcast and published – Prayer to an Iron God by Currency Press, 2010. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in literary journals online and in print, including Review of Australian Fiction, Spineless Wonders, Verity La, Seizure, fourW and apt. From 2011 to 2014 Caroline produced the highly successful Spineless Wonders Presents story readings at The Wheatsheaf Hotel in Adelaide, described in Overland as ‘reliably enchanting events … closer to New York’s Selected Shorts than anything else in Australia.’ The SWP format has been successfully reproduced and adapted for Sydney audiences as Little Fictions.
Caroline has worked in urban and rural communities, with government organisations and not-for-profits; she has also facilitated and created work alongside independent artists, young people, artists with disabilities and school communities. Caroline has a passion for art in all its forms. She advocates and promotes the arts as a unique means of understanding each other and the world, and as a powerful context for learning.
Caroline currently mentors emerging writers in the community while completing her first novel, a coming of age story set in in a West Australian desert town. She lives in Adelaide, Australia.
Caroline blogs at: http://carolinereidwrites.blogspot.com.au/
You can also find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarolineReidWrites
and Tumblr: http://www.carolinereidwrites.tumblr.com/
Caroline teaches creative writing at Mockingbird Lounge: http://www.mockingbirdlounge.com.au/creative-writing.html
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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