Ten Tips for a Successful Public Reading

Whether you are reading poetry at an open mic or reading the first few pages of your new book at a signing, it is very important to have good presentation skills. Below are the top ten tips all authors should master:

1. Eye contact.

You are not expected to memorize your work, but it’s very important to look up from time to time during your reading. Find someone in each section of the audience, smile and then look back at your book or paper. Each time you look up, find someone in another section.

2. Volume.

Imagine going to an event and not being able to understand the speaker because they were too quiet or wanting to put your fingers in your ears because they were too loud. Make sure there will be a microphone for you to use. Practice at home so your voice will carry in the event there is no microphone or if it is broken.

3. Speed.

It’s important to regulate the speed of your reading so you are not talking too quickly or too slowly. Practice until you have can maintain a steady rate of talking.

4. Tone.

It is important to make sure you do not have a dull, monotone pitch to your voice as you read. Make it lively and use intonations as applicable based on the tone of your book or poems. If what you are reading is cheerful, sad or angry that should be reflected in the tone of your voice.

5. Body Langauge.

Try and stay in one position, not rocking back and forth or swaying from side to side. The audience should be listening to you, not watching to see if you’re going to fall over.

6. Water.

Make sure there is a table or podium near you so you can keep a bottle of water on it. Take a sip when you feel yourself starting to get a little dry. Some Chapstick or lip balm is also recommended to prevent dry chapped lips.

7. Introduction

Before you start each poem give a brief statement about what inspired it. If you are reading from yoru novel, a few sentences about what inspired you to write the book will suffice. You may also talk about any published books and other writing activities you are involved in.

8. Invite friends and acquaintances!

Nothing makes a reading easier than a few familiar faces in the crowd! Have them sit near the back, so you can use them as “eye contacts” during your reading.

9. Practice, practice, practice! Whether it’s in front of your mirror, friends, famly or your neighborhood writers group, practice reading your work aloud. In fact, I strongly recommend taking yourself with a video recorder. When you play it back, you can see whether you need to work on volume, speed, tone, body language, eye contact, etc.

10. Relax! These people are here because they are interested in your work. Pick the best poems or your favorite part of the book to read, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment. Whatever doesn’t go quite right, evaluate it and make sure to do better next time!

Top Ten Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

If you’re a writer struggling with writers block, you know a little something about stress.  After all, what is writer’s block but a seemingly insurmountable wall erected as a result of the pressure you put on yourself?  That’s stress.  You want what you write to be perfect.  But you’re told, and you know, that perfection is unattainable.  So you procrastinate.  Why bother even trying when you know that you can’t create the perfect story, book, essay, poem, or song?  That’s writer’s block in a nutshell.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome this and move through the creative process.  Some will get you over the hump of formulating your ideas, while others will move the process through to completion.  Wherever your block enters in, there are ways to move through it.  Here are my top ten tips to overcoming writer’s block:

1. Go with the flow.

If you get a creative impulse, take time out and explore it.  Inspiration doesn’t come along everyday.  Use it while it’s there.

2. Create a separate physical space for creating.

If you have a place where you complete your writing “tasks,” find or create a different space where you can relax and allow thoughts to run riot.  If you need quiet, find someplace quiet.  If you need noise, go where there’s noise.  The object here is to make sure you have a place where your creative juices flow.

3. Always carry a notebook or audio recorder with you.

Great ideas happen everywhere and you want to make sure you still have them when you’re ready to use them.

4. Try writing exercises that have nothing to do with the project you need to work on.

Pick a random person on the street and write your version of their life story. Pick an ordinary object and write about it.  Personify it.  Write everything you can think of about it.  The point here is that creativity begets creativity.  Make time for it.  Try combining things that would not normally be combined and write about them, for example – write a short dialogue about two famous historical people from different eras meeting – what could happen?

5. Try a different creative activity.

Try drawing or playing guitar.  The variety will generate new connections, ideas, and enthusiasm.  Again, creativity begets creativity.

6. Just start.

Starting is often the hardest part of the whole process.  When you’ve got your ideas relatively sorted out, and it’s time to start putting pen to paper, do it. Don’t worry about where it’s going or what’s next.  Just get the starting bit over with.

7. Don’t edit as you go.

Do this later.  Editing is a separate process.  There’s no need to make it perfect right out of the gate.  If you worry about every little imperfection during the writing phase, you’ll paralyse yourself.  Worry about that later.  For now, just write what comes.

8. Organise your process.

Break your project into small chunks, and only focus on the chunk at hand.  Develop a schedule for your writing and stick to it.  Be realistic in your expectations. Schedule maybe 500 words at a time.  And give yourself a reward or extra break after completing each chunk.  It helps you to feel the process moving forward if you can look back at all the little tasks you’ve completed.

9. Accept that much of what you write will be changed or even end up in the trash.

Write it all anyway.  The gems will be in there amongst the trash.  Don’t spend time worrying that each word or idea gets written down perfectly.  It prevents you from getting anything down, and that includes the gems.

10. Forget the critics.

Don’t set yourself or your work up to be judged by others.  Everyone’s got opinions.  Realize that it is far better to have your work out there making whatever impact it will than not to because you’re too worried that somebody won’t like it.

While writer’s block comes with some of its own characteristics unique to writers attempting to do their life’s work, it really is just another manifestation of stress.  Overcoming it involves many of the same techniques we use to combat stress of all kinds.  It’s about finding ways to manage your expectations and move toward accomplishing your goals.  Now get to work!