As part of the Toronto Writers’ Co-operative’s annual outreach efforts, I participated in the 2014 Literary Cabaret at Alleycatz Lounge last February. Eighteen members of the Co-op took the stage to perform their writing, accompanied by a varying array of musicians.
Though I’d never met him before we shook hands on stage, my reading of my short story Paper Dolls was accompanied by James Faulkner on acoustic guitar. James’ spry yet mournful strumming was a touching backdrop to a story of a late-blooming friendship in the life of an older woman.
I will make a video of my reading available in April.
« A reading is a performance, » said Terry Fallis* in one of his University of Toronto Building An Audience courses.
With three readings coming up over the next few months, I have reviewed my notes on the subject for a few hints that can help prepare the best performance possible:
1. Choose a section that reflects the book / that reflects you as a writer.
2. Make eye contact with the audience.
3. When reading, it’s good to « act » the characters a little.
4. Use your voice as your instrument. Adjust your voice/performance to fit the writing. Change volume – lower the voice for dramatic moments (but not so much as to be inaudible) and raise the voice for excitement.
5. Vary the pace – slow down to add drama; use pauses, let the audience hang before delivering a punchline (coup de grâce), or speed up for intensity.
6. Practice, practice, practice. Before the reading, try out your piece. Practice in front of friends, or in front of a mirror. You can even time yourself, so that you know how long your reading takes.
I’ve been rehearsing my readings, timer at hand, to help me choose the best sections. Want to know which I picked? Feel free to attend any one (or all) of the readings to find out!
*I know, I know, sometimes I should just call my blog a fan page for this award-winning author…