Every year I attend two local writer’s festivals in my area. My favourite takes place in a little town nestled along the coastline. A cosy park huddled on a hillside is the picturesque setting for this outdoor event. The undulating roof of the stage bows beneath leafy trees that line the pebbled trails weaving through the garden, and the briny air and faint splash of the surf restores vitality during a long day of listening and conversing with readers and writers.
This year, I settled back into my seat, eager to hear one particular author. Her book was a passionate story of betrayal and forgiveness in a war ravaged country, sweeping readers into the hardship and heartache of each character, loathing and falling in love with the flaws of humanity. She walked up to the podium on the stage, mumbled a thank-you into the microphone, opened her book, and began reading her selected passage. Disappointment swelled up in my chest. Her passionate and evocative writing was lost in the lifeless drone of her voice; she made no eye contact with her audience, as if she was home alone uttering her own words by rote. If I had not already read her book, I would not offer it even a cursory glance based on her presentation.
I think it is the ardent desire for many writers to publish and be honoured with an invitation to talk about their work. Writers must be active in marketing their work; it’s important to be able to present an energetic and passionate reading. Not everyone is skilled at public speaking, and we are not all actors, but we should be prepared to present our work with enthusiasm.
As a writer, if I know I will be expected to read from my book, and certainly if it’s my first presentation to an audience, I would take the time to choose my passages and practice reading them out loud. Speaking in front of an audience can be daunting, but if you have faith in your work and have taken the time to prepare, you will sing. Writing takes practice, not just in creating the words, but in bringing them to life with your passion.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.