The Art of a Reading

It sounds as though it should be simple, but getting a reading right isn't quite so straightforward.

I did an event in Falmouth recently, when the organisers asked - just before it began, and with impressive trepidation - are you going to do a reading?

Of course I am, I replied - it's a required part of a performance for an author, is it not?

But the poor organisers had suffered a bad experience with a fellow writer, who had apparently mumbled their way through a reading which went on for...

... almost half an hour.

You can imagine the state of the audience (what remained of it) by the end. 

Last week I did an event (Hello to the lovey Ottery Ladies Probus, and thanks for looking after me so well) where I set myself a challenge and cut down my reading to what I thought was the minimum possible length - about a page and a half, or no more than three or four minutes.

I did fret that it wouldn't be enough to give a sense of the book, and me as an author, but it went down very well, which I suspect just echoes the old lesson -

Less is ...

On which subject, time for one of my favoured visual interludes, and a confession.

Book pile.jpg

I don't include this picture through vanity (honestly!), but just as an insight into how much giving talks about my books means to me, and how much I've learned.

These are the copies I've used of all my titles through the years to give readings from. They still sit on my desk, each one battered and well thumbed, to remind me of the places I've been lucky enough to visit, and the people I've met.

And, indeed, what fortunate folk we writers are.

So, back to the point and the hard-learned Hall rules of giving a reading -

1. It doesn't have to be the start of the book - pick something with a bit of action and excitement.

2. Keep it short.

3. Preferably end the reading on a cliffhanger, to leave the audience wanting more (rather than less, much less, as the poor people of Falmouth endured.)

4. And the big one... Enjoy it. No, make that relish it.

This is your book, your pride and joy, your heart and soul. Make the audience a part of that and they'll be with you - people love passion, whatever it may be about.

And finally, ne more thing to mention on the subject of readings.

This writing lark can be lonely. Sitting there, scribbling away, day by day, building up your book unseen by the world. But when you get to give a reading to an audience -

It's often only then you can truly see and sense the impact your words can have. A wow! - what a feeling that can be.