Learning How To Read

I did a Lit Crawl LA:NoHo reading last night at the Laemmle Royal in Santa Monica. Probably my fourth or fifth such reading in public. Got another one coming up next Wednesday downtown. It doesn’t make me want to vomit the way it did a couple of months ago—so that’s progress.

I’ve got a ways to go before I’m “good” at it, but I’m starting to figure a few things out. For one, it’s clear to me that the goal should be to read from memory. Looking down at the page for most of the reading, with only the occasional awkward peek up at the audience, just isn’t cutting it. That’s going to take some serious work.

The other thing is laughter. Whether I’m the one doing the reading or I’m in the audience, hitting a comedic moment in a reading is a real ice breaker. Sometimes that can be the actual text, but a lot of the time it’s in the delivery. Those moments when the author reacts to the gruesomeness of their own work, tries to read in a challenging character voice or does a funny hand gesture at just the right moment.

The story I read last night was called “Fix Me,” and at 1,300 words it was probably the longest thing I have read out loud to date. What I discovered is that once I was into the story, I kind of lost all sense of time—like I didn’t know if I had been reading for a minute or twenty minutes. It made me a little self-conscious, worried that I was boring the crowd. And then I reached a funny point in the story, I got a couple of loud laughs, and everything was alright.

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I guess the main thing I have learned, both as a reader and as an observer, is this: writing is solitary, but reading is performance. The two might be related, but need to be approached differently.

Lucky for me, I’ve gotten great advice from a couple of pros. Check out these interviews with Eric Beetner and Johnny Shaw for tips on how to deliver a memorable reading of your work.

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

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