An Important Lesson About Public Readings

You might think I’ve been on holiday–some remote island without Internet service, perhaps. Unfortunately, I have no such excuse. Life just got in the way of writing, which is a refreshing change from the other way around, no?

In the midst of a wave of company and a landmark birthday celebration, the 2013 Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival came and went. At last year’s festival, I read from Book I. It was the first public reading I’d ever done. I spent weeks choosing, polishing and practicing the perfect piece. I had twelve precious minutes and wanted to make the best of them.

When the announcement came out for the 2013 Festival, I immediately signed up to read from Book II. Once again, I spent weeks on my twelve-minute selection. I was feeling quite comfortable about it, but that was before I attended Terry Fallis’s Festival Workshop, “Building an Audience…”

Don’t misunderstand me; Terry Fallis presented a smorgasbord of useful and interesting tidbits and his comfortable, humorous approach to the workshop and, I suspect, life in general, made the first two hours whiz by. But something he said at the top of the last hour, made me anxious. He understood something I’d forgotten. He reminded me that if a writer gets the opportunity to read from their work, they’d better choose something compelling and representative of both their writing style and their book.

Makes sense, right? Intuitive, don’t you think? No brainer?

Uh-huh…yeah, should have been.

Thank God I attended Terry’s workshop BEFORE my scheduled reading. You see, with Book II, it was difficult to find a passage that didn’t contain either a spoiler or some bit of “lore” that would require lengthy back story to explain. Also, I didn’t want to read from the first chapters, because they’re available on Amazon and elsewhere. Therefore, I chose a scene from chapter six. It was a minor, simple scene with easily-described characters and self-explanatory setting. I thought it was ideal; instead, it was boring. I left Terry’s workshop in an anxious mess and headed home to scour the book for another passage.

After a tense evening, I decided to read from the first chapter after all, then spent the next morning refining and practicing the new selection to be sure I stayed within my twelve minutes. I read out loud and standing up (another Terry tidbit) to choreograph pauses and appropriate emphasis.


Relaxing after the public reading from Book II

At the appointed hour, I entered the auditorium and took my place. My nerves jangled and I fluffed a few lines, but I got through it. Most importantly, I read a piece that was representative of the story and in doing so, I left people curious and asking questions they might just have to read the book to learn the answers to. Which is the whole point.

Thanks Terry Fallis‎. This is not a lesson I’ll forget again!


About JP McLean

Author of The Gift Legacy, a contemporary thriller with a twist of fantasy that will leave you believing the impossible and wary of the night sky…
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9 Responses to An Important Lesson About Public Readings

  1. Sue Cox says:

    Great pic Cuz…..xo!!!


  2. Mike Grant says:

    I used to do a radio show and I’ve been on television a few times but sitting in front of people reading from you own book is unnerving. I learned quickly that people will understand a few stumbles though, especially if you make light of it.


    • JP McLean says:

      I thought I’d be less nervous this year, but no. I’ll have to work on making light of the stumbles until I get more comfortable reading in front of an audience. Thanks for sharing.


  3. bgbowers says:

    I love reading about your journey, JP. It fuels my own writing dream.

    I hope you had a wonderful birthday and congratulations on another successful public reading.:)


    • JP McLean says:

      Thanks, Bianca. The most unexpected surprise of this writing journey has been the wonderfully supportive community of writers, like you, that I’ve found along the way, so thanks. (The landmark birthday wasn’t mine – yet – but the party kept me busy)


  4. Terry Fallis says:

    You did a great job with the reading. We all wanted to know what was going to happen next. That’s how a good reading should leave you feeling. Onward!


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