May272011

Advice for Giving Author Readings from Mary Robinette Kowal (Important for Writers)


I am very leery of attending author readings, I must say. With the exception of a noted few, they have universally trod a delicate line between mind-numbingly monosyllabic and astonishingly tedious. Suffice it to say, Gentle Reader, that I have met very few authors who would not benefit from the following advice.

The tips below are courtesy of the lovely [info]maryrobinette who gave the best panel I attended at WorldCon in 2008 (and that is saying a lot, I went to some splendid panels back then). She had many more tips than just the following, and gave us a first-rate hand-out (which I still have, filed under “Really Important Advice”). I pulled only those few things I found most advantageous for this blog.

  • Avoid drinking dairy, OJ, caffeine, and other mucus educing beverages, but do drink water.
  • Choose a scene with a small cast of characters; one that is self contained (has a beginning, middle, and end), and is replete with suitably lush language.
  • Prepare by going through and underlining the emphasis word in each sentence.
  • Practice at least 2x first, preferably in front of an audience.
  • Speak slower when reading, use your “phone voice” to encourage extra care and enunciation.
  • Look up and make eye contact with your audience.
  • Get in touch with your inner diva.
  • Make sure your narrator has emotional investment.
  • When trying out character voices try listening to an actor who might sound like your character.
  • Feminine is slightly higher and fluid, masculine lower and more staccato.
  • When doing dialogue between 2 characters, look to one side of the room for one character, and to the opposite side for the other.
  • British English is spoken at the front of the mouth. (As a result of this statement, I spent the rest of the convention fascinated by the mouths of Englishmen.)

Quote of the Day:
“A baby is an alimentary canal with a loud voice at one end and no responsibility at the other.”
~ Jerome K. Jerome

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