Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What I Learned At My First Public Reading

Hey everyone! It's been a looong time since my last entry. Luckily, I have a very good reason for that. I made it into Pitch Wars! I've spent the last 2+ months working with my mentor, the amazing Kellye Garrett, to revise my first novel. It's been a hell of a journey, full of stress and weight gain, but an absolutely amazing experience. I'll probably blog about it again once it's all over since I'm still in the middle of editing my manuscript.

In fact, I only took time out of my busy revising schedule to 1) talk about the awesome event I took part in over the weekend, and 2) distract myself from the fact that the Agent Round begins tomorrow, November 1, (and runs until the 7th).

Now on to the topic of my post!

This past Saturday, I read an excerpt from my work-in-progress, Death Comes to ComiKon, along with three other up-and-comers (Nancy Johnson, Cynthia Pelayo, and Heather E. Ash. Keep an eye out for these three ladies, they're going to be big!) and six more established writers. Look at this spiffy poster advertising the event:
Look! My name!

I spent a lot of time agonizing over which section of my WIP to read; in fact, I didn't make a decision til the morning of. I was sooo nervous while listening to these other amazing writers read their work, especially since mine didn't quite fit the theme, not being very noir-ish. It's meant to be a humorous traditional mystery, after all. However, once the event was over, I received quite a few compliments on my reading, so yay, SUCCESS!

Top: Jamie Freveletti, Sara Paretsky, Nancy Johnson, ME!, Cynthia Pelayo, Clare O'Donohue
Bottom: Julie Hyzy, Heather E. Ash, Lori Rader-Day, Renee James

While I was preparing for the event, I looked up tips on how to do a public reading, and while there were a few helpful sites, there weren't a ton. So here's my two cents:

My fantastic boots (and double chin; thanks a lot Pitch Wars stress eating) stole the show

1. When selecting what to read, make sure it gives a good feel for the voice and world you'll be introducing your audience to. For me, it was the opening since it was packed full of humor and geekiness, but others chose more dramatic sections that were scattered throughout their novel. Different books require a different focus.

2. Make sure your selection feels complete. Either end at a cliffhanger, have an arc within it, or close with a joke. Stopping at a random part just because your time is up is really jarring. Because I knew I couldn't reach the cliffhanger within my given time limit, I chose to end on a joke, which was perfect. I got a good laugh and it fit the tone of my story.

3. Know how much time you have and practice, practice, practice. I was given a 5-minute slot, and to me that translated to one chapter. I timed myself using my phone and my 8-pg first chapter took me 13 minutes to read! Which meant I had to end much earlier and slash entire sections. Which leads me to...

4. Cut, cut, cut! You don't have to (in fact, you shouldn't) read your selection word-for-word, exactly as it's written. What works well on the page doesn't necessarily translate to a live reading. When you practice reading out loud, you can feel/hear the parts that are unnecessary/awkward and can be removed without sacrificing the logic of your story.

5. Don't just read. You're not in class reading out loud to get the teacher off your back. You're performing. As such, you need to know which parts to emphasize, when to look at the audience, what voices you have to do, and how to use your voice as a tool. My day job as an ESL teacher has taught me how to project, enunciate, and even exaggerate my speech in order to make my ideas clear, entertaining, and engaging. You don't have to be a trained actor to read with feeling.

So that's my advice. How was the event itself? SURREAL. There was a fancy cake baked especially for the event! 
This is a cake! An absolutely delicious one

An audience of not just my friends got to hear my story! 

I got to participate in an event with Sara freakin' Paretsky! And yes, that's her given name. I always embarrass myself around her in some way.

Lady Crime Fiction Writers! Woo!

Thanks to Lori Rader-Day for pulling together this great event and inviting me to be part of it! Photo credits to John Thomas Bychowski.

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