If you ever have to read your work to an audience then here are some top tips she noted down:
- Check out stage arrangement and reading area. A sort of music stand was available to readers at Rattle Tales, which was ideal to prop pages (avoiding horrible hand shake). I had my pages in slippery fish and when I tried out the stand found the lights glared off the plastic. The pages were also in danger of slipping off the stand. Having found this out I took the pages out and just stacked them loose, which worked fine.
- If using a mic then make sure you know the arrangement before reading and test out if you can. If no mic then when you introduce yourself check the audience can actually hear you.
- Carefully assess what's around you on the stage. I move back and forth when I read and you don't want to fall flat on your face because your wandering feet snagged a trailing lead.
- To make my story easy to read aloud I increased font size and exaggerated all the breaks with lots of spaces. This made me slow down as I read. I know some people annotate with notes or hints, but I was terrified I would accidentally read these out, so I didn't have any notes on the text.
- When you get to the stage or mic first thing you need to do is look out and SMILE! If you force a really big grin then it makes you feel better, and gives the illusion that you may be enjoying yourself (you never know this may actually be true).
- If the reading area is lit up then this can be a bonus. I couldn't see a thing as I looked out into the audience, all the lights were on me and the rest was blackness. Bliss.
- Take along a support crew. Handsome Hubby and the Tame Teenager came along (OK I had to bribe them with dinner) to cheer me on. And I have to thank the lovely West Sussex Writers Rose, Liz and Derek who all braved the bitterly cold evening to cheer, clap and whistle as I fumbled up to the stage. It did feel like I had my own fan club in the audience and helped stir that first smile.
- Be prepared for questions on your story. Rattle Tales leave out rattles (see photo above) on every table. These are so the audience can ask a question. I had about 3 questions on mine concerning inspiration and 'did I write a lot of fairy stories?' Be prepared to talk about your inspiration for the story, any influences on your writing (other writers etc) and anything on the plot or characters.
- I drank only soft drinks all evening. Changing my mind about Dutch courage because I wanted to keep a clear head and not to wobble onto the stage. After reading I didn't even crave a drink because of the natural high - an amazing feeling and possibly an addictive one...
- Signpost the ending of the story. When I finished reading a deathly hush descended, thankfully followed by applause, but for it moment it did seem the audience weren't sure I'd finished. Later Handsome hubby said this was because everyone was so enthralled in the story they didn't want it to end (sweet). The next day he gently suggested that I hadn't really signposted that the story was coming to an end i.e. didn't change the pace of reading, or change anything in my voice. And he was right, as always. (And after reading the write-up for my piece on Rattle Tales website I now suspect they didn't understand a word of it.)
I hope this inspires you to take up an opportunity to read aloud your work to an audience. And if there are any story reading events being held locally to you then do check them out. Go cheer on those writers, they will really appreciate it!