Word count: 329 Reading time: 2-3 mins
Australian author P.L. Travers said, “A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns.” She learned so much that her Mary Poppins book series has realized every author’s dream: it thrives long after her death.
World Read Aloud Day came and went this week and I wondered how many writers were even aware of it. [I wasn’t until today.] Its primary focus is global literacy and surely that is important to writers. Who are we without readers? Who are we without listeners?
Reading aloud lets writers pick up weasel-words that sneak in and repeat themselves monotonously. It lets us hear the flow. It’s difficult at first so when we sit down in writing groups and stumble through our stories and poems, we hope our listeners are forgiving. A reasonable expectation for emerging writers.
What about readings by professional writers? Surely they work to a higher standard. On our epic Outback adventure a few years ago, my husband and I took along Bill Bryson reading his book Down Under. His wry style enlivened hundreds of miles of long dusty roads. When Angie Abdou read at the Vancouver International Writers’ Festival last October her quarrelling characters sprang to life around her.
But I’ve also squirmed through sessions where it sounded like the writer was seeing the words for the first time. One writer in particular turned her head to the page and obscured any view of her face with a broad-brimmed hat. She didn’t lift her eyes once as she mumbled her way through pages of prose. Shouldn’t writing professionals polish their reading before they step in front of a mic? After all, a writer is only half the performance, the other half is the audience.
Have you read your work aloud recently? Did you discover things in it that you hadn’t seen before? Have you heard a writer bring their work to life with a spirited reading?