Reading in public

I am still sick and incapable of comprehensible speech. (Seriously. I called my parents today and my own mother did not recognize my voice.)

So I figured that today would be a good time to answer a great question I got in email: how do you become comfortable with reading in public?

The best way to become comfortable with reading in public, as far as I’m concerned, is not by reading your own work. I used to (and for years, I’ve been wanting to start up again but have not yet managed to) get groups of friends together for something that we pretentiously callled Salon. Salon was (and could be again, my friends IRL) just a gathering including food and drink, where everyone brought something to read out loud. The only requirement of Salon was that you could read anyone’s work out loud except your own. And anyway, the experience of reading other people’s work out loud to a friendly group is a good way to start getting used to reading out loud, period. Once you’ve done that for a while, and gotten so that feels okay for you, then you can start trying to read your own stuff.

Or at least, that’s what worked for me.

Everyone else: what suggestions do you have for getting comfortable with reading your own work in public?

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  • nevikmoore
    February 21, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    I like the idea. What better way to discover the awkward quality of one’s own prose than by watching a friend stumble over it.

    Unless, that is, your friend is a tone-deaf nincompoop.

    In a similar vein, reading to Owen and Katie has greatly reduced my fear of storybook reading for young audiences. In fact, I think my skills have improved. After your umpteenth reading of Goodnight Moon you begin to experiment with delivery, phrasing and timing.

  • lkeele
    February 21, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    The way I personally got more comfortable reading my own stuff in public: reading to children. First and second graders, particularly. They’re so accepting. If you let them tell you about their lost tooth, and maybe even give you crayons at the end, they loved your visit.

    I still get nervy reading to anyone above the age of 10.

    Your way is good, though.

  • anonymous
    February 21, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    I imagine the audience naked and Republican.

  • bgliterary
    February 21, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    Hope you’re feeling better soon! I hate being sick, and I’m the world’s whiniest sickie too.

    I love this idea of practicing reading using other’s work. Might actually try it out at retreat!

  • anonymous
    February 22, 2006 at 3:40 am

    You could take up extreme reading — reading out loud in places where it’s not expected, like on public transportation or in supermarkets. (Most people would probably think you were crazy and try to ignore you anyway.) Once you mastered that art, reading in front of a room full of people who were just sitting calmly in front of you (and not trying to give you the bum’s rush, say) would seem downright pedestrian and relaxing.


  • anonymous
    February 22, 2006 at 4:36 am

    I had to get up at a concert this past Monday and talk about the Creative Music Guild (the organization I volunteer for). I’ve been a volunteer for years, and watched another board member make the announcements dozens of times … but as I wrote my own notes I couldn’t remember what he said. I had to ask another board member what to say. I spoke too fast and did forget a few things, but it was fine.

    So, my thoughts are PRACTICE, and at some point, you just have to bite the bullet and do it.


  • anonymous
    February 22, 2006 at 8:25 am

    Thank you so much for answering my question. At least someone answered it. I will try it.

    Hope you feel better. I hate getting sick (i just like it when i miss school.) Good luck.