For most people, public speaking is scary. Everyone’s watching you and listening to you. If you’re giving a reading, you’re also sharing your creative work, which can be intensely personal (even if the story has nothing to do with your actual life). And you’re supposed to read for an hour and then answer questions about yourself? Who invented this kind of torture?
Fortunately, Jennifer Laughran looks at what makes a successful bookstore event. Hint: it’s not reading for an hour. One part I liked:
“Tip #6: Visual aids raise interest level. Kids especially love to see visual aids. I know one prolific author who has ALL his jackets taped together and unfurls them like a scroll and has kids hold it up – it stretches across the room! People think it is cool if you show off all the book jackets from around the world or early versions of book jackets that didn’t make it, or a funny story you wrote as a kid, or a writing notebook with a thousand cross-outs in it, or your own embarrassing childhood photo, the menu from the restaurant that inspired the book, or whatever. People love “behind the scenes” stuff and “making of” stuff, and kids love knowing that fancy published authors were just kids like them once upon a time.”
I love all the ideas here that aren’t related to you reading a selection of your book. That’s important, but I think these “behind the scenes” looks at the life of an author and the creation of the book. Once I attended a reading by Shannon Hale and for the most part, she talked about how she became a writer. She even showed us a giant roll of rejection letters she’d received from literary journals–a few of which I’d gotten myself. It was a huge relief to know that someone like Shannon had worked through rejection to get The Goose Girl published (and all her other amazing novels that followed). Thinking outside the standard reading box can be so much fun for your audience, who tend to expect the standard “reading followed by a Q&A.”
Jennifer gives a lot of info and suggestions, so make sure to check out the whole post. Have you attended any cool readings? Do you do anything to make your readings stand out?