At many writing conferences, there’s an opportunity to share work in open mic type forums, in addition to sometimes reading in the workshop itself. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a lot of practice over the years through RedBird RedOak Writing in Milwaukee; and thankfully, I’m often complimented on my delivery. So…. how do you get to practice sharing your work before an audience? Today, I’m so pleased to bring you a guest post from my dear friend, and great writer, Kim Suhr, director of RedBird RedOak, discussing ideas to set up public reading opportunities.
Taking Your Show on the Road, by Kim Suhr
There’s nothing like it: after sharing her work with her writers’ group and polishing it until it shines, the writer stands before an audience. At first, her voice quivers a tad, but then she settles in, pausing here and there to let her words resonate, smiling when she receives a laugh at the right place. Then, in the moment between the end of her reading and the applause, her face glows with a sense of accomplishment.
One of my favorite tasks as Director of RedBird-RedOak Writing is to host our “On the Road” readings at Fixx Coffee House and Books & Co. near the studios where our Roundtable groups meet. These evenings have been so well-received that I encourage writing groups everywhere–especially those who have been meeting for a long time–to present a public reading of their members’ work once or twice a year.
While it doesn’t take a huge amount of preparation, completing the following checklist will help the evening run smoothly:
Create a list of participants and agree on possible dates. About 10-12 writers each reading for 5 minutes is a good number. If your group is small, an 8-10 minute reading per writer is fine. More than 10 minutes, however, can get long for a first-time reader, and the audience, too!
Brainstorm Venues. Coffee shops, libraries and independent bookstores are a natural fit, but don’t forget about other local businesses that might appreciate exposure to potential customers: an art gallery, a yarn shop or an ice cream parlor. Think out of the box.
Contact the owner to make arrangements.
Publicize the event as much or as little as your group desires. Make use of social networking and local newspaper events calendars. Create a pdf invitation or email that writers can share with their network and post on the bulletin board at work. Write a press release and invite a local reporter to cover the event. These are all just ideas. If the evening ends up being no more than the writers’ group and 2 or 3 guests per reader, it will still be a terrific event.
Designate someone to be the evening’s photographer and MC.
Readers should be encouraged to practice and time themselves.
A well-planned event will practically run itself, and the readers and audience alike will enjoy the different pieces that are shared.
**Warning** Once writers get a taste of presenting their work to an audience, they’ll be hooked and will want to make it an annual–or even quarterly–event. Keep this checklist (with your own notes and advice) for future readings!
Kim Suhr is the director of RedBird-RedOak Writing and Red Oak Young Writers, llc. In addition to leading the Roundtables, she facilitates Write ‘til You’re Blue in the Face, a writing exercise workshop, at our Milwaukee studio location. Kim writes in a variety of genre. Her work has appeared in a variety of literary journals and has been recognized in the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association Jade Ring Contest and the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, 2011.
Thanks so much, Kim! Hope her tips will be helpful if your writing group is looking to set up some public readings. Let us know how it goes. Happy #writing!