Skill Module: reading or performing your work

Very shortly you will receive a letter inviting you to a literary reading! Bring your families along and share some of the great creative work you have created during this program.

This fortnight, you should begin to think about what that looks like, so below I’ve included my 10 tips on performing your work. Practicing reading your work aloud is a great way to edit your writing -sometimes things look wonderful on the page but when you read them out loud the words may not sound as beautiful together, or you may find mistakes in your plot line that don’t come out when you are reading and re-reading silently.

During this week, use the below tips to help prepare you for the literary event and give your work the final polish it deserves.

There is also a forum below for you to share your tips on managing nerves and performing with each other as I am sure there is a wealth of experience within the group.

10 Tips For Performing Your Work

Tip 1: Performance is an editing tool

You learn things about your writing when you perform it. Don’t think twice about going back and revising a section of your story or poem (or the entire piece!) based on the reactions (or lack of reactions) you get from a live audience.

Tip 2: Be an expert on the microphone

Know how to adjust the mic stand in case you need to. Know where the mic should be and how close you should be to it… usually you have to be right up close to the microphone, so you are almost touching it! Remember you have at least 15 seconds to get ready before people will begin to wonder why you haven’t started. You can practice at home with a makeshift microphone – lots of fun to be had with a broomstick and a hairbrush!

Tip 3: Clarity above all else

If the messenger is not clear, then there really isn’t any message, is there? You could be the most brilliant writer in the world, but if no one understands you they won’t listen.

Tip 4: Everyone wants you to succeed

Despite what you might think, the audience is not waiting for you to slip up or mumble. Nor are they hoping you do so. They want you to blow them away with your words. They want to be entertained, enlightened, surprised … So do them a favor and know your work.

Tip 5: Does a poem or story have to be true

Not in the way an article in a newspaper has to be true. You are allowed to change things here and there, use your Poetic License, or even make things up if they serve your writing. Your writing should serve the larger Truth. It should be true to you (even if it never happened).

Tip 6: Have points of reference that everyone will understand

If you write “non-linear” work (more lyrical, image-based poems and stories that don’t necessarily have a strict narrative), be sure to have a few places where the audience can “rest” and think, “I understood that.” If you don’t, they will stop listening to you.

Tip 7: Stay still or have a reason for moving

Movement is usually the result of nervousness, and everyone can tell. Plant your feet and don’t fidget. If you let your hands hang naturally at your sides you will LOOK normal (even if you FEEL stupid).

Tip 8: Don’t over introduce your story or poem

It is always best to recite/read the work and let it talk for itself. However if your story or poem mentions an obscure fruit, or person from history (for example) it is more than fine to give a bit of information at the front that will help the audience understand your references.

Tip 9: No one needs to know if you make a mistake

If your mind goes blank, take a pause. If you are overcome with nerves, breathe. Don’t let the audience know you are faltering. Move through the rest of the poem as best you can. No one cares that it’s not perfect (except you).

Tip 10: Signal that the reading is over

You know you have read your work well if the audience knows when it is time to start clapping simply because you started smiling. Don’t be afraid to end with a moment of expectant silence. When they start to clap, stay for a moment and collect the applause before walking away.