Monday, May 3, 2010

Reading aloud

This past week, Bath Spa had an "MA Showcase" event where students were invited to read short excerpts from their work.

As a former teacher, reading aloud and speaking in front of groups of people doesn't usually bother me. But I wanted to show my work in the best light possible. Also, I'm conscious that if I'm privileged enough to publish my work, I could be regularly reading it aloud in schools and at festivals, so I wanted to do a good job.

Lucy English, a performance poet and tutor at Bath Spa, ran a session for those of us planning to read. She didn't say anything new to me or shocking, but her advice was useful and of course timely.

Her tips on choosing a piece to read:

  • Choose a dramatic scene or description with clear images
  • Don't expect a piece to be representative of your whole novel
  • Avoid pieces which need lots of explanation

A few of her tips on reading aloud:

  • Choose one verb that describes how you want to appear, then decide how you can convey that through clothes, body language, and facial expressions
  • Pause for four seconds before you start reading
  • Move your arms in expressive gestures, but not your feet
  • Slow down, especially if you have a more unique voice (hello American accent!)
  • Think about pauses, varying your sentence length and pitch
  • Engage with the emotion of the piece
  • Keep your papers / book at your waist, not in front of your face
  • If something happens, just keep going--no one will know!
Useful, huh?

The evening went well--or at least, I felt good about it. I didn't fall over, pass out, or lose my place! Though my hands were shaking quite a bit when I sat down.

I read from the beginning of Project Sparkle, which currently opens with a dramatic scene, so that was an easy choice. And nice to begin sharing my writing with those outside my immediate class.

For those of you who do readings, do you have a hard time trying to decide what to read? What types of selections have you had success with? Do you still get nervous every time?


  1. I get nervous reading my writing, but not when I read other people's writing. I hope to get over this soon.

  2. I'm the same way. I wonder if I'll always have a bit of nerves reading my pieces, esp. to kids, but hopefully it will get easier over time.


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