A word of advice. If Hank Phillippi Ryan is offering a workshop in your area, run don’t walk to sign up. Readers of this blog know Hank as a wonderful writer of two different series. She launched her career with the Charlotte McNally series. Her Jane Ryland series followed, with the fifth (Say No More) coming out November 1. She is a lovely and generous person. She is also a terrific teacher.
One note, Hank is also an Emmy winning investigative reporter. Those of us in New England have watched pound away in interviews, and try to right some wrongs, for a long time. She is fierce. I greatly admire that she is juggling two careers with grace and aplomb.
Last Saturday Hank held a workshop for the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime which was entitled “Perfecting Your Author Presentation”. The first part of the day was about doing an author presentation. The second part of the day was about being interviewed. Today I’m going to talk about the morning session–perfecting your presentation. Hank’s advice for a good reading included preparation, practice, performance, and the pitch. I’ve mashed her information up with my editorial comments, so if she ever offers this workshop again, take it. I’ve left parts out.
Preparation: Think about what you are going to read. Don’t necessarily choose the first chapter of your book. Choose a section that gives listeners a flavor of the novel. Plan on two minutes worth of material, maybe three or four pages.
Create a script out of your reading. Print out pages with large type. Number your pages. Edit out parts that don’t make sense out of context. Get rid of long passages of description. Make it exciting. Add a little bit of context to the beginning–let folks know what the book is about, and a little bit about the characters they are going to meet. Just a little bit.
Practice: Practice your reading. Read your section aloud, time it, adjust it as needed. Then practice it again.
Performance: Like it or not, this is a performance. Charles Dickens used to travel around and do dramatic readings of his work. While no one is expecting this of you, they are hoping to be entertained. For many (most?) of us, this is terror inducing. Yesterday I talked about Hank’s “Be A Puffy Cat” advice. Make yourself big, own the space you are taking up. An actor friend of mine says that fear is excitement without oxygen, so remember to breathe.
If you are doing dialogue, turn your body when you read different parts, or add “he saids” or “she saids” to help the audience keep track. Practice it.
Slow down, and look up at your audience. See them. They want you to succeed, so looking at them is critical. If you can’t bear that, look just over their heads.
Remember to introduce yourself and mention the name of your book at the beginning of your presentation. This is really important, and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Always have a copy of your book with you. You can use it as a prop, or put it up in front of you.
The Pirch: Before you start your reading, you should introduction yourself, and mention the name of your book. Practice that, and don’t forget to do it.
Also, create a good one or two sentence “pitch” that folks will remember about your book. Make sure you use it.
Hank had us each do a reading (if we wanted to) and then gave us notes. It was a terrific exercise.
Now, back to my script…
Author friends, do you do all these steps? Readers, what do you like best about author readings?