Reading aloud? Encouraged!

In the beginning, there’s just you, the pen and the paper – or the keyboard – and your inspiration.  Words spill out, and if you hold onto that privacy of setting yourself on the page, you can write anything.  That’s how I believe the best writing takes place.

Leonid_Pasternak_-_The_Passion_of_creationThe page is a space of freedom to explore ideas, to experiment with form and content, to imagine; to re-imagine: to remember.  You can chose when and with whom to share it.  Will you though?

That’s a big step, for most of us.  Even handing out a finished hard copy so that someone else can read it, can be nerve-racking, and hopefully we will have chosen our ideal reader carefully.

So what happens if you’re asked to read it aloud?  There are a few competitions around now where the chosen texts are expected to be delivered to an audience, by the author. Do you avoid submitting your work, in case you get picked?  That would be a shame.  Your work might be perfectly suited to ‘telling’.

It’s been a source of discussion in my creative writing group, where we encourage each other to read our homework tasks to the group.  Some people are confident about this, they’re natural story-tellers who know how to pace, and dramatise.  For most of the rest of us though, it’s a steep learning curve.

Between us, we’ve shared a range of approaches, so I thought I’d try gathering them into a list.

  1. Read poems or stories that you like aloud.
    • You can do this on your own, or to a willing and sympathetic guinea-pig, who may then help you to change your style.
  2. If you’ve small children in your life, read to them.
    • Put your mind to making the text entertaining, don’t just deliver the words dryly.
    • Children love silly voices, pauses and dramatic interpretations.
      • Just because you read dramatically with them, doesn’t mean you need to employ those techniques to an adult audience, but knowing that you can loosen up will help your confidence.
  3. Read your work aloud to yourself several times.
    • This will help you to practice timing, and see if there are difficult phrases, or changes needed in the punctuation, so you’re winning on two levels.
  4. Go along to some readings and open-mic events.
    • Don’t just chose the big-name venues, opt for local, room-in-a-pub groups.
    • Enjoy listening, but at the same time, notice how varied the styles of reading are.  Some people are performers, but lots more are good readers.
  5. Try a public speaking coach.  They’ll have a wide range of strategies and approaches to help you overcome nerves and develop your delivery style.

What I find, is that confidence comes through practice.  Nerves are natural, so my list starts small and builds.

miki byrne1

Miki Byrne, performance poet.

 

This week I’ve had enthusiastic emails from two of my regular group who went along to Miki’s poetry workshop & open mic in the bar of The Roses, one of our local theatres.  ‘Poetry night was great,’ said one, ‘we really enjoyed it,’ said the other.

There’s a big writing world out there, and it’s ours, if we just dare…

What else are we going to do with our writing, if we don’t share it?

It’s the bank holiday…

…here, and in some other countries, so I’m offering a brief post this week: a quote from Middlemarch.

We are not afraid of telling over and over again how a man comes to fall in love with a woman and be wedded to her, or else be fatally parted from her.

…In the story of this passion…the development varies: sometimes it is the glorious marriage, sometimes frustration and final parting.

George Eliot’s novel was published in 1871.

It seems to me that her observation is still true.  So come on, you blocked writers, what are you afraid of?

Next time you have doubts about your writing, think of all the fiction that has been published since this quote: the millions of characters who have interacted with each other.  Then ask yourself why you shouldn’t tell your version of any story.

And in case that doesn’t impress you, here’s Sappho, born circa 620 BC.  The fragments of her poetry that remain are all centred on love and passion.

pompei_-_sappho_-_man

Looking for a quick smile?

logo4%20copyCheck out today’s post on Paragraph Planet, The Barrister.

This lovely piece of concise writing is by way of a boast, since Martin attends my writing classes, so I feel I can garner some reflected glory.

Paragraph Planet is a lovely challenge.  Why don’t you give it a go, too?

Martin has also been published on the letter project.

Watch this space for more.

Heard any good stories lately?

KuchaleeWe’re at a local fete.  Lots of people drifting round stalls, greeting, sipping tea and eating cake in a sunny vicarage garden.  The story teller wanders in.  He wears a big woolly hat and bright, Caribbean style beach clothes.  He carries a drum.  Heads turn, but he doesn’t seem to notice.

He settles on a low stool under a broad leafy tree, crosses his legs around the drum and taps out a soft, regular, rhythm.  Children pause and turn to look.

The Story-teller speaks, just loudly enough to be heard above his drumming.  ‘The Mosquito,’ he says, ‘had a beautiful yam.’  An audience begins to form.  With a gesture, the Story-teller encourages them to settle around his feet.

His drumming builds into a crescendo, then dies away and he says, ‘The Mosquito boasted about his beautiful yam to everyone.  They were so impressed that they all came to his house to taste some.’

His audience has expanded to include adults, standing.  A few are parents, waiting within reach, but they’re listening too, to the story of a boastful mosquito.

The Storyteller slaps at his drum and calls out in the neighbour’s voices, ‘Let us in, Mr Mosquito, and share some of your wonderful yam.’  His drumming softens and, he tells us, ‘Mr Mosquito was terrified.  He stayed behind the door pretending to be out, but the neighbours wouldn’t go away.’

The Storyteller pounds at his drum and raises his voice.  He says, ‘They said, “We know you are in there, Mr Mosquito.  Why do you not answer us?”’

The Storyteller drums soft and fast, and his voice drops.  ‘Mr Mosquito said, “Zzzzzzz.”

“What?”’ The Storyteller calls out above the heavy beating of his drum. “What is that you say?”

The Storyteller pauses, and into our silence he loudly sibilants, “Zzzzz.”

We are all wide-eyed.  I am vaguely aware of the fete, busy behind us, but, what is going to happen now?

Our understanding of the shape of a tale is something we practice from the moment we learn to communicate.  Once we can begin to say, this is what I want to do, or this is what I have done, or even that he or she did to me, we are putting together narratives.  If we’re lucky, someone has already been regularly reading to us, or even telling us stories.

The traditional stories I grew up with, European tales, were sculpted for the page. Stories from other cultures often don’t work in the way we’re used to.

Kulchalee, The Storyteller, drew his story to a close in one line: ‘And that is all Mosquito ever said again.’kulchalee