Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Reading Aloud by Debbie Bennett

It’s been an odd year so far. April already and I don’t seem to have achieved anything – writing or otherwise. I’m unsettled due to an impending house move and the creative juices are drying up completely.

That being said, I’m still writing scenes for Littlewich Ways, our local community radio play series. It’s about the only thing I have any motivation for writing right now, but I’m sure things will pick up when life is more settled.

And on Thursday I’m “guesting” at the Knutsford Literary Society. I wrote about this last month and I thoroughly enjoyed socialising with other authors and readers. But this meeting is my meeting. All about me. And my books. Scary is an understatement.

Now I talk a lot – everybody tells me that. I embarrass my family by chatting to the check-out people in the supermarket. I’m the person in a clothes shop who tells somebody they look nice in a dress they are trying on; even though I haven’t been asked for my opinion, I feel obliged to give it. And people who know me may say they think I enjoy being the centre of attention – but really, that’s not true. I’m great at talking if I have something to hide behind. I can run a convention of 400 people because I have things to do and organise. It’s not about me at all, is it?

But eyes on me as me? That’s different. And reading my books out loud is frankly a terrifying prospect. Leaving aside the fact that I don’t like the sound of my own voice (does anybody?), reading one’s own work is like stripping in public. It’s personal. This is me. This is the inner workings of my mind. This is my soul. It may sound pretentious, but other authors will get it – particularly those who, like me, are self-published and despite healthy sales and good reviews (and even long-ago agency-editing), lack the validation of a traditional publisher. I find it incredibly hard to do. What if people don’t like it? Or worse still – what if they’re bored?

Why do we do this to ourselves? Sometimes I wish I’d just taken up gardening instead …

9 comments:

julia jones said...

Debbie, you are doing yourself down. This is a lovely post and I wish I lived in Knutsford. I'd be THERE

Umberto Tosi said...

Wish I could attend! Our merry band at Chicago Quarterly Review hold's readings four times a year. I've read from two short stories and did a dramatization from Ophelia Rising on three of them. Although I used to perform improv publicly, I was out of practice, plus, it's different reading from one's own work. I was dry-mouthed and felt tongue-tied each time. I practiced more for the last one and wrote notes to "breathe" and "slow down" all over the pages I read from - and this helped. My partner, Eleanor - who has done a lot of public speaking - told me that rushing is the bane of public readers. "Slow down, and when you think you've really done that, you are probably still going too fast."

Wendy Jones said...

I agree with Julia. I would come to hear you speak any time. I hope it goes well.

JO said...

I'm sure you'll be fine - but I'm with you on finding the whole 'reading out own words aloud' but terrifying. We don't have to like it, but it comes with the job these days, so we just have to do it!

Chris Longmuir said...

I'm sure you'll wow them, plus I think you'd find gardening less interesting!

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I'm sure you'll be fine. Everyone will admire you for doing it. Most audiences are on your side. I like doing readings of my own work now, but it took me a while to get used to it. The first few times it was very scary and then it got better. Doing read-throughs of (my own) playscripts seemed to help. Back when I was doing a lot of theatre and radio, sometimes at rehearsals if an actor wasn't there, I'd be asked to read various parts. It seemed daft to plead shyness so I just did it - and at some point, after the initial nervousness, I found myself enjoying it. I bet you will too! You start to stand apart from your own work and read it as though somebody else had written it. Mind you, sometimes when I go back to something I wrote a few years ago it FEELS as though somebody else has written it.

Susan Price said...

Catherine's absolutely right, Debbie. (And Catherine, glad to see you're still with us!) Public speaking is a big phobia for most people - absolutely terrifies my otherwise thoroughly assertive Scot - so most of your audience will be admiring of your courage and sympathetic because they'd hate to be doing it themselves.

And like everything, it gets easier the more you do. I started giving talks and doing school visits at 19 and although I was terrified then, I've long since become completely hardened to it. - Can't strike up casual, friendly conversations in shops, though! I'm too shy and admire your ability to do that.

Debbie Bennett said...

Public speaking per se doesn't bother me at all. I'm used to that at work - years of visiting companies to chat to the accountant and finding I was doing an impromptu presentation to the entire board in a huge meeting room...

But reading my own stuff is very different. Baring one's soul in public seems almost rude!

Fran B said...

I don't usually mind reading my own stuff aloud. Seven years in a writing group has cured me of worrying about the sound of my own voice. However, one of the worst experiences of my life was reading aloud my (only) children's book to a group of 4 - 9 year olds at a book fair. Adults will at least try to hide their boredom and disinterest, if they have any manners at all, but children have no such scruples. Didn't help that it was an inter-seminar, lunchtime slot and they were tucking into packed lunches and swilling cans of drinks. We had a circle of seats in the middle of a big marquee with lots of stalls and people traipsing around and calling to each other; so they were distracted all the time. Eye contact was almost impossible. I eventually felt like I was talking to myself and closed the session down fast, skipping more than half of what I'd intended to read. It took me about 3 years to get over that mortification!