Why Author readings scare me and ways I overcame that
As a reader, I’ve attended multiple author readings over the years, sometimes in bookstores, frequently at conventions, or this past year, over zoom. So when I was invited by Golden Crown Literary Society to participate in the author readings they are hosting for award finalists, I signed up for it thinking it’s the right thing to do. And like a good little chicken, I spent the next couple of days lamenting why I ever signed up! A reading?? Even over a zoom call, which is easier than face to face for an introvert like me.. it was still sweaty palms time. (For those wishing for a jump ahead, here’s the youtube video of the readings!)
So how did I get over my sweaty palms???
Well, I’ll start with, I didn’t totally get over it. I mean, I’m still an introvert, and I was still scared. But I found ways to become a little less scared over time. First, I spent some time thinking about what message or feelings I wanted the listeners to come away with. It’s a delicate balance, choosing which part of the book to read from. This book, Face of the Enemy, has two main characters – Jordan and Kay. So which to pick from? I chose Kay, partly because she has a more unique voice, and partly because I just like her more. Author’s choice! She also had the tone I wanted to get across, slightly sarcastic, and just that little bit reckless.
Once I had my character chosen, I had to find a good spot to read from. The first scene with her seemed an obvious choice, but it didn’t have the ‘hook’ I wanted to leave folks with. I needed something that would show her off, but also, pull in some of the main themes in the book. So I chose a section further on, where Kay meets her girlfriend Ayaan’s grandmother for the first time. Seems kind of benign, maybe even a little boring, right? Well, not so much. Ayaan doesn’t see eye to eye with her grandmother for one. For another, her grandmother is the matriarch of one of the most powerful families in Novan space, and happens to control Kay’s future whether she or Ayaan like it or not!
So, character chosen, scene chosen, what next?
Then, it was all about the practice. The readings were six minutes long, including time to introduce my book and a lead into the scene. I started with reading the section out loud and timing it. I had to shorten it a bit, so had to choose whether to chop the start or the end (I chose the start). That meant more lead in time. Oh the number of times I stumbled on the lead in! I eventually wrote it down and edited it to be succinct but cover what’s needed to follow the scene. Then, I memorized it!
And each night, every night, for two weeks, I practiced. Mostly to the dogs, but they were willing enough to listen.
And how did it all go?
Not too bad, if I say so myself! GCLS set up everything about 20 minutes before the official zoom start, and all the other authors were great! It was a small, fun group. The host went through everything with us, made sure we knew where we would turn video and audio on, let us know about the Q&A, and in general, set a calm, easygoing tone for the whole thing. My reading went smoothly I thought (practice really does make perfect, or in this case, well enough that I’m not hiding in a cave right now). And the Q&A with readers at the end was a real blast! By then, there were no more sweaty palms and I was wishing it could last longer!
And for those who want to see it, here is the link again. I already bought the book from one of the other authors and have the others on my list.