We (The Novel Girls) haven't settled on a topic for this week yet, at least at the time of this writing (Sunday afternoon), so I am declaring this week "Open Mic Week." Or, um, each of us can talk about whatever the heck we want to talk about.
Now, the rest of the girls might decide to stick to the same-as-of-yet-unchosen topic, or maybe they'll follow my lead, or maybe they'll come up with something on their own. But I'm going to talk about public speaking. Or, in this case, public reading.
I know at least some of the other Novel Girls have read from their books in public. Possibly, they all have. But I never had. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to read a scene from my upcoming release A BREATH OF MAGIC, at an event that my local RWA chapter holds each year: The Spring Book Lover's Event.
The thing is, we've never held live readings before. This was a new activity, and while I was given the opportunity to have someone else read for me, I decided to push through the wall of my gut reaction (which, for the record was, ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME????) and do the reading myself.
I changed my mind a dozen times in the month leading up to the event, but ultimately, stuck with my guns. Choosing the scene to read took a lot of time on my part. Mostly because the scene I wanted to read also gave away a huge spoiler in the book, but this is also my favorite scene in the book. It's powerful, emotional, and something I felt sure that anyone listening would be able to connect with.
So I put the decision off. And then Friday night came and I realized "Oh, no! I have to read tomorrow and I have no idea what I'm going to read." I opened up the manuscript and began pouring through it. I chose three different scenes before finally settling on one that I thought (hoped) would be compelling, but also didn't give away a dang thing.
I arrived at the event early on Saturday. The readings started around 11:30 AM and continued every 30 minutes or so throughout the day. I was the third reader up, and I have to say my knees were literally knocking together by the time I stood behind the podium.
There were quite a few people there, all of them watching me with interested eyes. I started to read, and wow, I really thought I wasn't going to be able to do it. I was that nervous. My voice wobbled and shook a lot through the first portion of the scene. I think I mangled a few words here and there. But then, somehow, from the middle section on, I found a better rhythm. Oh, I wasn't at ease, but my voice shook a little less and came out a little more confident.
I managed to finish the reading without passing out, throwing up, or having any other horribly embarrassing thing happen. When I finished, I answered a few questions, gave away a few copies of the first two books in my series, and thankfully took my seat.
And while I was proud of myself for accomplishing a goal I was really, really petrified of, I also wished I'd done a lot better. See, I'm a talker. I love to talk with people. I can talk about books, writing, the weather, my kids, your kids, ANYTHING without missing a beat. I love to socialize. But this--reading my work in public--was incredibly difficult.
And because I'm a sucker for punishment, I want to do more of this. I want to become better at it. After my reading, USA Today Bestselling author Elizabeth Vaughan read her short story OFF THE RACK (from the anthology Pandora's Closet) and she was amazing. Breathtakingly amazing. The story was wonderful and she told it as if she wasn't reading, but sharing. I was (and still am) in complete awe.
So, while I have no illusions of ever being able to read my work in public with the aptitude and beauty that Elizabeth did, she has given me something to work toward. I don't know if practice will help. I don't know how to get over the knocking knees and pounding heart and terrifying fear of stepping behind a podium and reading something in such a way that enthralls an entire room.
But dang, I am definitely going to try it again.
What about you? Are you comfortable with public speaking? And if so, do you think that comfort would spill over into reading your own writing to a group of people? Any tips for someone who is comfortable speaking in public, but not reading in public? I'd love some help for the next time!