Candle light? Guitar strumming in the background? A glass of fine wine?
It would be great if that had been the ambience the first time I read in public. Instead, it was at a bookstore in NYC. Bright lights, empty seats, and my nerves tangled into one complex ball of feverish belly fire.
It’s only been a few years since then but I remember it like it happened for breakfast today. I talk to published authors and aspiring ones and many share the stark anxiety of reading in public.
Here are some ways to get ready for your maiden voyage.
1. Pretend , as Marcia Brady on the Brady Bunch suggested, that your audience is desnudo (that’s right, nekked).
2. Practice your lines out loud. Read them over and over. No need to memorize them if you’re not a performance artist. Reading is good enough. The upside is you’ll likely catch those little things you’d like to change before you’re in front of the empty chair, er, I mean, audience.
3. Let a transparent (new way of saying honest) person listen to you before you take your place in front of the mic.
4. Wear something comfortable. You want to focus on your words, not your cleavage or hemline. Let the audience get what they came for. If you get asked out after you read you know it’s because you are insanely talented. No, I don’t mean wear your nun’s habit.
5. Hook up with other writers. Being part of the New Voices Series has been exactly what I needed as a new writer. I’m not so new anymore but love to experiment with different themes, voices, and styles of writing. I was even invited to brunch with an agent. We eventually didn’t sign any contracts but that food at NoHo was divine! Plus, I learned a lot- especially how to pretend I was A Star!
6. Consider sending an email to La Pluma y La Tinta’s fearless Raquel Penzo. She’ll get you started at the next New Voices event.
7. Come out to Pacific Standard at 82 Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn on 7/17 at 7pm. Sign up for the open mic. There may not be strumming guitars but there will be fine wine. Mostly we will support your “first time.” You won’t be doing this alone.
See you there!