Tag Archives: read

Why readings are important…

Over the past few posts, I’ve been chronicling my experiences at various writers conferences and workshops. You can check out the entire lineup here.

Many workshops offer the chance for participants to read their work aloud to a sympathetic and engaged group of readers. They will even clap loudly for you at the end, no matter how eloquently (or not) you were able to share your words.

I first realized that doing a reading was a possibility for me at the Yale Writers’ Conference a year and a half ago. Our workshop leader made the announcement as if she were adding broccoli to the lunch menu, “Oh, and by the way, you’ll all have a chance to do a reading. I suggest you try it. It’ll be good for you.”

That caught me completely off-guard. As you might have read here, insecurity ushered in my application for the Yale workshop. I mean, it’s Yale, right. And, as if submitting my novice work to be read and critiqued by others wasn’t brave enough, I was being encouraged to read it aloud. Where was that little tidbit in the application materials?

Honestly, the only reason I did it was so that, one day, when someone asks me if I have ever done a reading, I can answer, “Why yes actually, my first-ever reading was at Yale.” Hopefully, I won’t have to clarify, “Yes, the one in New Haven.”

So here’s what I learned about readings.

  • Readings are not in my wheelhouse. When I read in front of others, I sound like a hoarse frog that’s fallen off its very comfortable lily pad smack into very cold, murky water. Which is super weird because I’m quite comfortable speaking off the cuff in front of people.
  • Readings are an amazing experience. Ultimately, you’ll be glad you did it. Pinky swear.
  • Practice a few million times before you actually stand up to read.
  • Attend the readings of the other writers in the group and support them the way they supported you–clapping when they are done, not pointing out they sounded like a cold/wet frog, etc.
  • Respect the time limit. You will look like a disrespectful amateur if you don’t.
  • You must respect the time limit. (Nope, that’s not a typo. I meant to write it twice. 😉 It’s really important.)
  • Stop at a point that leaves the audience wanting to know more. This is especially true if you are selling books afterward.
  • Remember to breathe. If fact, if these were truly in order, time limit would be number one and this would be number two. Take breaths. Frequently.
  • Be familiar enough with your work that you can look up at the audience every now and then. It will make everyone more engaged. (If you’re like me, it might also make you more nervous when you look up and remember there are for real people in the audience. Just remember to breathe.)
  • And have someone take your picture.

Since Yale, I have read three other times. Once more at Yale, once at the Kenyon Review Workshop, and once at the One Story Workshop. I know. I know. I’m practically a frog professional.

Here is Yale. The first time.

2013_June_11_yale writers workshop_ellenweeren_99And the second time at Yale.

Yale Writers Conf 2014-Jun 09, 2014-10I much prefer the podium.

And here is One Story…see how I am getting more comfortable? Practice makes comfort.

one story workshop-224At One Story, I read a very personal piece–a poem about a friend’s suicide. Even though I wrote it about 3 years ago, I had not read it aloud before. This is a really important thing to consider. I knew this audience provided a safe, accepting place for me to read this very private poem and I wanted to share it. But, I broke down and cried half-way through. Someone in the audience reminded me to breathe and my fellow writers were extremely supportive, waiting for me to catch my breath. I wiped my eyes, sucked in a deep breath, and made it through the piece. But it was hard. Brave and hard. I have wondered if I should have read something else. I’ll never know if it was the right choice. I do know that everyone was gracious after and I hope maybe my words touched someone in the audience. A few people cried right along with me. I will forever be grateful for that.

So, if you get a chance to do a reading, do it! And if you participate in a writing group, consider making reading aloud part of the meeting. Each writer can just read a few pages–it doesn’t have to be the whole piece. Words have a different echo when they are thrown out to grab oxygen than when they are simply lying flat on the page. Reading them aloud will make you a better writer. Pinky swear!

It’s also important to attend readings of authors you admire. It’s a chance to thank them for the many hours they spend toiling away on a story that has touched you. And it’s often a chance to meet them and get them to sign your book. Squee! It really is important to become a part of the larger writing universe. We can’t spend all of our time at our lily pads in our own little corner of the pond. Reading and attending readings is a great way to accomplish that.

A Book Review – Drinking Diaries….

It’s over here at A Reason To Read…

 

When I’m not writing…..

artwork from clipart.com

Which should be never. But, alas, when I’m not writing, I am usually reading something.

As for books, I write book reviews over at A Reason To Read. So many of my book choices are not my own.

But I am a big ole lover of magazines. And I have subscriptions to several. They are…

Readers Digest – I love how quickly I can read through this magazine and I love the jokes!

Writers Digest – author interviews, prompts, advice, contests – really just a little bit of everything.

Obscura Journal – this only comes out twice a year – but it couples beautiful photography with storytelling.

Poets & Writers – lots of info on contests, grants, and seminars.

The Writer – they tout themselves as having “advice and inspiration” for writers – that’s pretty much sums it up. Oh and some pretty wonderful author interviews and articles by top notch editors/agents.

The Sun – this is a lovely mix of interviews, non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. Truly something for everyone – except the advertisers. This fun little gem has no ads.

The New Yorker – because there is something very old school in me that believes if you want to be a writer worth your weight in ink, you must at least know what’s on the front cover of this magazine.

And, yes, I have them all come to me in hard copy right to my mailbox. That way I am getting something besides bills. And, I can stick it in my purse in case I am stuck waiting somewhere, which almost always never happens. 😎

Did I leave anything off the list? What are you reading when you aren’t writing?

What would Dr. Seuss Do……….

I know times are tight and everyone is suffering, but my local library took it a little too far yesterday. I get it that checking books out at the library saves money – it is a wonderful convenience. So I try to do it. But I don’t always follow up with “part b” of that idea – the part of returning the books on time so you don’t have to pay fines – thus guaranteeing the saving money part of the deal.

In my attempt to be a productive member of society, I went to the library to pay any fines we owe. I thought this was pretty good – we are moving out of the country – I didn’t really have to do this – the library police aren’t really going to track me down in Delhi and make me read more books.

I get up to the counter – tell the librarian why I am there – apologize for not having my library card – ask if she would mind looking up our account numbers.

Librarian: Oh, you don’t have your card?
Me: No – I am sorry – we are moving – it’s been crazy – I don’t have the right purse – Is there a way you can look it up? Please. Pretty please with library fines on top.
Librarian: We charge for that service now
Me: Service? What service?
Librarian: Looking up your card number
Me: Isn’t it on the computer – the one right in front of you – the one you will be using to look up my fine anyway?
Librarian: Yes
Me: Ok then – how much is it?
Librarian: It is a dollar per account number
Me: Gasping for air – a dollar? I have 4 card numbers to look up – I just want to clear my account – I might not even have $4 in fines (yes, that was wishful thinking)
Librarian: Wait, are you just paying fines?
Me: (with no books in my hand) Yes – we are moving – don’t really need to check out anything – unless of course you have a reciprocity agreement with the Public Library of New Delhi – now that you mention it, I do need something good for the plane
Librarian – completely unamused
Me – that would be “yes”, I am just paying a fine, but I will need you to look up the fines on that computer – if I can’t even remember my library card, I certainly do not know how much my fines are
Librarian – in that case we won’t charge you
Me – Wow
Librarian: over-extending herself to enter my phone number – yes, all ten digits – to find my account numbers.

She had to do it 4 whole times and it took her about 2 and a half minutes to look up my numbers, calculate my fines, collect my money, and give me change. In fact, it took her longer to tell me about the charges than it did to collect the overdue fines. I can totally (not) see why they are charging for that service now. If I had books to check out and they mentioned charging me to simply look up my account number, I probably would have actually left the books at the counter. Seriously, enough is enough. That would certainly cause more work for the librarian than just entering those 10 digits into the computer.

So, I paid the $20 in fines (still cheaper than the book store) and I cleared my conscience of late fees and overdue books. Yes, I believe Dr. Seuss would be proud – very proud.

I know this is not cause for a riot – maybe it’s not even worthy of a blog post – but it really irritates me that the library would charge me for something they have to do anyway. Is it really that much more daunting to have to enter a phone number than to swipe a card? Really, is it? Isn’t this why computers were invented? To make life easier? Let’s use technology to our advantage. Seriously.

Blah Blah Blah………………

P.S. I don’t personally hold the librarian responsible for the decision to charge the fines – I know someone above her made that decision – don’t worry – no librarians were hurt or yelled at in the writing of this post.