Friday, July 03, 2009

Reading your audience

Charles here.

My blogmate John has asked for our thoughts (yours too) on doing readings. My philosophy on this is simple: don’t.

About a month ago I participated in an excellent book event at the Moonshine Café in Oakville, Ontario. There were big names on the lineup – Vicki Delany and Rick Blechta among others – as well as me. We were each give tow, 15-minute slots during which we could read or just chat. While the other authors all chose to read, I stuck to chatting. Each of the authors who read did a fine job indeed, and the audience was engaged and interested. And each author was able put a voice to the characters and move the story along at a good clip, each wisely leaving the audience at a cliffhanger moment, sparking I-just-gotta-know-what-happened-next sales.

I didn’t read from my books at that event.

Now I have a good voice, and if you live in upstate New York, the Lowcountry region of South Carolina, the Elkville area of California, and various regions around the Atlantic coast, you may have heard my voice in numerous commercial spots. And if you tune into the Smart Set (Saturday nights from 5-6pm EST on Jazz 90.1FM in Rochester and Jazz901.org around the world) you can enjoy my dulcet tones. Without sounding immodest, I know how to read dramatically and can even make a phone book sound like this summer’s blockbuster must-read. I know how to read.

So why don’t I read? Because I don’t like to be read to.

I do like the occasional Book on CD and I will go to a reading of a play, but in general, I don’t like people reading to me what I would rather read myself. Part of it is that I like to imagine my own voices and intonations, but mostly it’s that, by choice, I’m a slow reader. I like to savor the words, the thoughts, the rhythms and tone, and when someone is reading to me, I have to focus, almost solely, on the narrative. Sometimes I re-read the same line a half-dozen times simply because it feels so good, or I’ll stop after a line and close my eyes just to enjoy it more. As a result I get through fewer books than most people, but I also get through fewer fast-food meals than most people. There are enough things in my life I have to rush through because someone else is setting the pace, enough things that are told to me—told at me—that I choose to avoid those situations when I can. And, because I like to do unto others as I’d like them to do unto me, I don’t do readings.

Rick and Vicki did a great job on reading their books at the Moonshine Café, but even they were not able to read their books to me as well as I read them to myself. Their books deserve to be savored and deserve to be read the way you want to read them, and not the way someone else would want to read them to you. And that includes Rick and Vicki.

10 comments:

John Corrigan said...

OK, so here's the natural progression of this discussion: What leads to sales, the reading or the Q&A that typically follows? Might be my next blog. Regardless, Rick, I can't imagine never doing a reading. It's a form of promotion and entertainment. I go to reading often.

John Corrigan said...

OK, so here's the natural progression of this discussion: What leads to sales, the reading or the Q&A that typically follows? Might be my next blog. Regardless, Rick, I can't imagine never doing a reading. It's a form of promotion and entertainment. I go to reading often.

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Donis Casey said...

You really offended someone in China.

Donis Casey said...

My editor, the famous TEE, told me it's better not to read, so I don't unless I'm asked. However, I went to an author event once where she presented what I considered to be a most entertaining program without reading. As I was leaving I heard one woman tell another she was disappointed that the author didn't read part of the book. So what are you going to do?

Rick Blechta said...

Hold your horses! (I love that phrase) I'm not the one who said one should never do readings!! That was Charles!!! (Oh my God, I've just used up two lifetime's worth of exclamation points...!)

I realize we are both follicly challenged but he plays sax and I play trumpet -- and there's a very big difference that you should have noticed, John.

I enjoy reading in public. I enjoy being read to. Honest!

Vicki Delany said...

I wrote a long comment, and it seems to have disappeared. Perhaps anon. ate it. Trying again. I am not a fan of author readings, either as an author or audience member. I have noticed that when I travel in the U.S. authors rarely read, and in Canada they always do. There are too many writers who just can't read (ever heard Margart Atwood speak? snorefest!) and drone on for 20 minutes. Like Charles, I don't like to be read to. What I do, in Canada or in the U.S., is talk about some aspect of the book, like the importance of the Klondike to Canadian mythology, and read a short section to illustrate my point. But that's just me.

Vicki Delany said...

AUthors need to be aware of their skill set. Charles's bits at the Moonshine were very well received, sort of stand-up-comedy about his books. I participated in a library fundraser recently and one of the authors was a professional storyteller who is about to have her first book published. She read and it was wonderful. I can't wait to get that book. But I can't say that happens very often.

Charles benoit said...

All authors are story tellers, just that most of us are better doing it in writing. I'm looking of local opportunities to see more professional storytellers in action, so if you live in Western NY and know of something, drop me a line.

PS - Just finished watching (for the 5th time) Daniel Craig in casino Royal. Wow. Rose is still panting.

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