aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

A book reading that looked painful

A guy was in town the other night to read from his first novel. I’ve been seeing it praised everywhere, so I decided to go. There was a good turnout, probably 30 people. He had been written up in the paper that day. As far as I could tell, there was no big contingent of friends - just people who wanted to hear more about his book.

He began by saying, “I’m going to read from Chapter 12.” And that’s just what he did. He didn’t set the scene at all. You had no idea who the characters were. The chapter was made up of two scenes of two people talking. I thought the first two had once been in a relationship, but I think they might have been brother and sister. Sometimes there would be four or five exchanges with no dialog tags or “He set down his coffee,” and the author didn’t vary the pitch of his voice, so it was a little hard to follow who was speaking.

Still, it was well-written.

When he was done, he looked up and said, “Does anyone have any questions?” He let about a second go by and said, “Well, since no one does I guess I’ll...” Then someone raised a hand. He tried to call it good three or four more times. By this time the whole audience had realized he was intensely nervous. A few of his answers were fascinating, but I think he was so anxious he just had trouble letting his real self shine through.

I looked on his Web site and Portland was only his second reading. The first had been in his home town. Should you ever find yourself in similar situation:
- Tell the listeners what the book is about.
- Share some interesting stories about how you came to write it.
- Seriously consider reading the first chapter or part of the first chapter, which doesn't require any set-up.
- Although this guy didn't, I think reading for longer than five or ten minutes is probably too long.
- Think about starting the question and answer period - if no one has any initially - with “One question people have asked me is...” to prime the pump. Remember that it might take folks a minute to raise their hands.
- It might help just to begin by admitting that you are very nervous.

I still bought a book, and just today I saw another outpouring of praise for it.

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