I hit The Word on the Street in Kitchener this weekend. Raptures. Books and sunlight and folding chairs on the grass, autumn leaves rappling down the tent roof and the barking of small dogs. Writers and words and writing...and readings. It was a rare opportunity to sit in on one reading after another. As such, it was also a rare opportunity to see what works and what doesn't, in terms of engaging one's audience. So after sitting in on a few readings, here are my tips for a good reading:
1. Remember that the purpose of a reading is, ultimately, to sell books.
2. KYSS: Keep your snips short. Give 'em just enough to whet the appetite. Too much and they'll glaze over and start thinking about what to cook for dinner.
3. Choose your snip carefully. It should be able to stand on its own. It should show off at least one of your characters to good effect. It should be easy to introduce: "Amabel, the MC, has just fallen down a well", versus "Amabel, the MC, has just gone into a hotel for a drink, when in walks the captain of the ship she jumped off of to avoid paying the fare because her purse was stolen while she was asleep; she was pretending to be a man then, and is now dressed as a woman".
5. Read with feeling.
6. Answer a question with a story. You're a storyteller. Prove it. This may be difficult for you, or it may come as easily as breathing, but when someone asks you a question, they're giving you a chance to sell yourself. Do it. It will help sell books. Remember, you want to sell books.
7. Learn how to deal with crickets. Have a contingency plan for the dreaded silence when the call goes out for questions...and there aren't any. Don't leave them wanting less.
8. Dress for success. You should wear the clothes, the clothes shouldn't wear you. Nothing fussy or distracting. Wear colours that flatter, fabrics that don't wrinkle, and avoid words on your person. Make sure you feel comfortable. And for those with breasts, I can't emphasize enough the importance of a good bra.