Right about now you’re probably thinking something along the lines of “I’m not famous, who would want to listen to me read?” And while being famous or published at all certainly means more people will come to an event you’re reading at, you’d be surprised at how many people want to hear amateur writers read their work, particularly if that work is poetry.
For example, I’ve only published this blog and a handful of articles around the web, but I’ve read at several events and been incredibly well received. A couple of these events have been reading events put on by my writing group or someone connected to my writing group. Others have been run by Nanowrimo participants, some during Nanowrimo itself. They’ve varied in size, but all of them have been lots of fun.
So today I’d like to talk to you a bit about the why and how of public amateur readings.
1. Practicing reading to groups now will make you a pro when you’re published. Reading the work that is closest to your heart will never be easy, but it gets a little bit less painful every time. If you start attending amateur reading events now–which are often low pressure gatherings of supportive people–by the time you’re a published novelist doing a book tour, you’ll be used to reading your work out loud. You’ll be more confident and less likely to misread due to anxiety.
2. You meet awesome people. I’ve met some pretty awesome people at the events where I’ve done readings, most of whom I’ve never seen again but who I’ll remember for a long time. Not only will you probably meet people who like your work, but you’ll meet other writers as well, and it’s always great to make new writing connections.
3. You’ll be exposed to awesome writing. You’ll also get to hear other amateurs reading at these events, writers whose books are still unpublished and thus impossible to find. I don’t know about you, but I always love hearing other writers read–especially when I know that it’s an exclusive party where work that nobody else will see for a long time is being read. When some of those other amateurs get famous, you can say “I heard him/her read before he/she was even published”. And if they don’t get famous… well, at least you still heard some awesome stuff you wouldn’t have heard otherwise.
1. Find a local writing group. I’m part of a weekly writing group called the Toronto Street Writers, where each week a different author presents a workshop and participants do writing exercises. Often people are asked to share their responses to different exercises–although nobody’s ever forced to read–with the group. Finding a similar group in your area provides you with a safe space to practice sharing your work. Not only that, but these groups are usually great for recommending other opportunities to you–I’ve read at two events which I never would have been connected to without my writing group.
2. Search the Interwebs. I found my writing group online, and while searching for it I also found tons of open mic events for spoken word poets and a handful of other reading/writing events that seemed cool. You never know what you’ll find until you’ve looked it up. Make sure to do an area specific search when you’re looking, as it’s kind of pointless to know about writing groups halfway around the world. I found my writing group through Google, but you can also check out Meetup.com. They’ve got all sorts of group listings and you’re bound to find something local eventually. It might take a lot of searching, but it will be worth it.
3. Make an effort to meet local authors. Most published authors still have some sort of connection to an amateur writing group–whether it be a group they run, a group they used to be part of, or a group one of their friends runs–and by connecting to these people and having candid conversations, you can often find a group where you’ll fit right in. Don’t be shy when approaching published authors. They were amateurs just like you once, and I’ve yet to meet an author who looked down on unpublished writers.
Amateur readings are a great way to practice reading your work, find like-minded people and connect to other authors. Remember that you can read in front of large groups of people–you just need to build the confidence first by reading to smaller, supportive groups in a safe space. If you start building that confidence now, by the time you’re published, you’ll be ready to do readings wherever you might go.
So go out and find a place where you can read today.