At last month’s meeting, the club members were invited to volunteer to read some of their work for up to five minutes at this Monday’s holiday potluck. Attendees to the potluck included the writer’s club members, their guests and their families.
I volunteered to read with some encouragement. So I’ve known for a month that I had to pick something to read. After weeks of back and forth I managed to narrow it down to three choices.
1) A dementedly scary and violent encounter my main character, Melanie, experiences.
2) A deeply heartfelt moment of internal reflection from the mind of a love interest.
I read all the options to my husband, the poor man…He suggested the light hearted excerpt given that it was going to be read during a festive event. Good advice I think. After all, I didn’t want to scare any kiddies if someone brought their cubs, or give the gentle spirited souls present possible nightmares with the violent scene, so lighthearted sarcastic humor it was.
I was more nervous reading a five page excerpt from Book 1 then I was reading to my entire class in 2nd grade! And in second grade, I could barely read which forced me to have to make up most of the book up as I went along based intuitively from my interpretation of the pictures! Hmm…maybe that’s where the whole writing a book thing started…more on that later.
Anyway, getting nervous in front of people was sort of a new experience for me. Normally I’m all for it and handle it just fine being that I’m a socialite and tend to enjoy myself once I’m up there. However, I’ve never had to read something that has been kept so close and personal to me. I was about to share to a group of people part of my book! Yikes!
I’ve been so secretive about my books and even writing up until I got a publishing contract. Only two other living souls have read it. Well, other than those individuals who work for my publisher being that it’s their job to review it. So reading it out loud to a group of new acquaintances and strangers to hear made my heart race, my face turn bright red, and my body jitter with unbridled nerves and adrenaline.
Adding to my mental battle, was the knowledge that I was reading to a room full of published authors, aspiring authors and members of the club’s critique group. My fears were unfounded…they were all very kind, laughed at the humor and sarcasm, and gave me positive feedback such as, “great descriptions” or “that was wonderful!”
I had all the speech tips bouncing around in my memory from college but it all went shooting out of my head like mental diarrhea as soon as I got up there. I tried to read slowly and look up at the crowd from time to time, but I was so nervous I just barged ahead like the newbie author I am.
I tried not to run back to my seat when it was over. My face was hot, burning red, oh yes, I could feel my red skin betraying me, and I was almost trembling internally. Auh! I hate it when I turn red…the bane of my existence!
A dear friend and fellow author, John Marchel, who is also a member of my writers club, gave me 5 helpful little tips when I sat back down. He’d been writing them down on a little piece of yellow paper for me while I was up there reading. He slipped it to me after I sat down.
Below are John’s words of wisdom. I’ve heard them before, but it’s worth noting and heeding if you plan on making a speech or reading to a crowd anytime soon. Practice makes perfect, and practice in front of a mirror might do me some good the next time around.
Tips for Reading In Front of a Crowd
1. Slow Down
2. Pause to let people laugh or wonder
3. Pause between paragraphs. Don’t barge on ahead – my bad
4. Emphasize certain words with a mimic. For example: “She smiled mischievously”
5. Look up and work the room. Make eye contact at one end and each time you look up, move across the room and then back.
I hope that helps someone out there. I’m definitely going to try and keep these tips in my brain the next time I read in front of a room. And there will be a next time!
R. J. Machado De Quevedo
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