A Day to Celebrate

 

I spend a lot of time looking at screens. I write on my computer. I read books and check my social media accounts with a smart phone and a tablet.

A lot of my time is devoted to reading print: novels, non-fiction books, newspapers, magazines, and anything else that stirs my curiosity.

By the time I go to bed at night my eyes are begging for a res,t but the story-lover in me is not yet ready to sleep. Enter: audio books. Someone reads to me every night thanks to my local library and their brilliant collection of books.

Who do I read to? I read all my day’s work to my husband who is an intelligent and helpful listener.

Do you like being read to? Or do you prefer to read to someone else?

 

The jury is out

Word count: 300                                 Reading time: 1-2 mins.

This spring, after years of avoiding it, I went to an open mike night. As I read the first poem I had written since high school, I clamped my hands together so they wouldn’t telegraph my nervousness. After that, I was invited to join Word Whips, a group led by the amazing poet Fran Bourassa. The challenge there was even greater: not only do writers read work aloud, they compose it on the spot.

“Speak only the truth even if your voice shakes,” sang The Blackout in Keep On Moving. That could easily be the motto of Word Whips as Fran’s free-writing exercises trigger deep emotional responses. Group members write powerful, often exquisite, pieces in five and ten minute sprints. In my inaugural session, both inspired and intimidated by the talent around me, I wrote a bitter poem to someone who once betrayed me. My voice quavered as I read it. When I finished, several people laughed, one even applauded. In being truthful, I had touched a universal chord.

No fear, no envy, no meanness Liam Clancy advised the young Bob Dylan in their early days in Greenwich Village[1]. There is so much to be learned from other artists, I have overcome my fear and envy and returned to Word Whips every month. When there, I remind myself it isn’t a critique group; it’s a sharing exercise, the chance to stretch artistic muscles. No fault-finding, no blame. The only thing anyone is guilty of is the desire to improve.

What are your experiences with reading your work aloud? Do you do it only in the privacy of your own home? Or have you taken the most difficult challenge and stormed through the barrier of your first public reading? Do you ever read out loud to anyone?

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Photo by: Kenny1


[1] No Direction Home

Once more - with feeling!

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?

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Photo: somethingway