Blue Heron Books, Book Launch, Open MIc, Reading, Writers, Writing

Writers at the Mic – Taking Your Words on the Road

Ten years ago. That was when I did my first reading at a microphone. I was a complete and utter mess. Walking to the mic was equivalent to the walk to the gallows. Even thinking about speaking into the mic had me hoping and praying for a lightning bolt to take me from this mortal coil. And yet, there I was, walking up to the mic and preparing to read words that I myself actually wrote. The horror!

I neglected to mention that when I get myself into these pickles, it’s usually all or nothing. It’s a BIG BAD PICKLE! My first turn at the mic was actually in a recording studio at CBC Radio. Yep! Someone who hyperventilates at the mere imagining of sharing his words was stepping into a recording booth to–are you still with me here–SHARE. MY. WORDS! On a national scale. With people at a soundboard watching my every move. With the producer of one of the station’s most popular listener-contributed shows on CBC Radio1 (FIRST PERSON SINGULAR) smiling at me from the other side of the glass.

Go big or go home.

With that dip into the world of reading under my belt, you would think that it would begin to come easier to me…right? You’d be wrong. I was asked later in the same month to read the same piece in front of an audience of writers at the (WCDR) Writers’ Community of Durham Region’s monthly Breakfast Meeting. The request sent me into a tailspin of panic. I mean, I was ready to call 9-1-1 for myself. What did I do? I said YES. This only increased my anxiety. I thought of many ways to get out of this. I would tell them a taxi ran over my legs, so I’d be unable to make it to the meeting. I would tell them I was stung by a Brazilian Wandering Spider, and I only had a few short minutes to live…so I’d be unable to attend. Or, I could tell them I fell down one of those wells everybody always seemed to be falling down. These may seem like ludicrous alibis now, but at the time each one was viable. ANYTHING to get me out of the horror of reading my words in public. It was a double whammy of anxiety stew. Public speaking AND sharing my words. The horror!

I did it. I sat down with my back to the audience, but I did it.

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The whole time I’ve been on this writing journey, I understood that public speaking and the sharing of my words were both necessary. I could not get out of either if I were to progress to anyplace of any significance. So, I hunkered down and accepted my dismal fate. I bit the bullet. I read. In public.

A reading I did at the Renaissance Café in Toronto.
A reading I did at the Renaissance Café in Toronto.

I think I’ve come a long way since that first audience interaction where the audience remained out of my field of vision and I sat down so that my wobbly legs were not forced to hold me vertical. I know I’ve become more comfortable…or that I’ve become more adept at hiding my discomfort. I’m not sure which one it is, but does it matter? I’m biting the bullet whenever I can, now. It hurts! I won’t ever pretend it doesn’t. But I’m doing it.

Reading at my first book launch at Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, Ontario
Reading at my first book launch at Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, Ontario

In today’s world, the writer is a self-promoting machine. It’s no longer enough to sit in a candle-lit garret room and write the next Gatsby. One has to take that work on the road. Even the shyest most introverted writer would do good to get to open mics and spread their words. Believe me when I admit to you here and now. I AM THAT SHYEST AND MOST INTROVERTED WRITER of which I speak. It’s me. I’m it. And if I can do it, anybody can.

A million open-mic may not prepare you for the shock of having your first book launch, but they will prepare you to give a reading from that book while you're there!
A million open-mics may not prepare you for the shock of having your first book launch, but they will prepare you to give a reading from that book while you’re there!

Wherever you live, I’m sure there are open mics happening in your area. Do yourself a favour and sign up. Attend. Read at the mic. Listen. You will never get good at it if you don’t keep doing it…especially if you’re an anxiety ridden lunatic like myself. Keep this in mind before you attend your first one–people are there because they want to hear writers read. Upon arrival, you already have their support. All you have to do is read.

One more piece of advice. Whatever you write–read it aloud. Whether you intend to stand up in front of the mic and read it to an audience or not. READ IT TO YOURSELF. OUT LOUD. A writer who reads their work out loud will discover that this is one of the best editing tools in the writer’s toolbox. Hearing your words will help you to hear what works and what isn’t quite ready. The writer’s ear knows.

Books, Fiction, Good Reads, GoodReads, Novels, Reading, Reads, Summer Reading Series, Summer Reads

The Summer Reading Series – Marcel

Next up to be interviewed for the Summer Reading Series is Marcel. Marcel lives in Toronto, Ontario, and you can Twitter follow him here: TORONTOHABSFAN One of my personal favourite Twitter handles! (-:

KC: Where do you read? Do you have any favourite places? Everywhere? Only in bed? On the subway? Favourite coffee shop?

MARCEL: Primarily, all my reading is done on transit. It’s my little distraction from everything else going on, but if I’m into the book I’ll read everywhere I can. Some books cannot be put down for that long.

KC: What book are you reading right now? And what are your thoughts on it so far?

MARCEL: I just started reading a book called Changing Tides by Michael Thomas Ford. I’m literally 4 pages in. So still getting into it. However I just wrapped the Hunger Games Trilogy. Such a heartbreaking, exhausting read. I really got into the books and just lost myself in them. I couldn’t put books 2 and 3 down.

KC: If you find you’re not really liking a book, do you still commit to reading it through to the end? If not, how far into it are you willing to go before putting it aside? If you DO commit, have you ever seen one through to the end to realize you were happy to have stuck it out?

MARCEL: I give every book 100 pages. If the story can’t draw me, away it goes. I have read a few books where I felt like it was going to be a chore to read only to get through and find myself liking it. Others I’ve stuck with and thought what a waste of my time. 

KC: Top 5 Favourite Novels?

MARCEL:

In no order:

KC: Who were your favourite authors as a child? Your favourite books?

MARCEL: I read every single Eric Wilson Mystery book I could get my hands on. Also read the Little House on the Prairie series; the Beverly Cleary books about Ralph. S. Mouse. And the geek in me read Shakespeare a lot too (13 year old).

KC: Your favourite authors as an adult?

MARCEL: As an adult I’ve read all of John Grisham, Michael Thomas Ford, Christopher Rice, Timothy James Beck, J.K. Rowling; Michael Connolly books. (I’m a complete-ist. If I find an author I like I read everything I can get my hands on.)

KC: Favourite book cover ever?

MARCEL: I’m a big fan of the covers of Michael Thomas Ford’s books. They are all done by a gay artist I like named Stephen Walker (and not for the obvious reasons).

However my all-time favourite “book” cover is a comic book – issue 276 of THE AVENGERS:

 

KC: I SWEAR I had that issue of The Avengers when it first came out! Thor was my favourite. Definitely a great cover! Fess up – Are you an adult who reads YA? YA is one of the biggest growing markets out there right now…and a LOT of adults are consuming YA books in large quantities. Are you one of them?

MARCEL: I hate classification. Too me a story is a story, is a story. If I’m into it, I don’t care about the target market. So yes, I do read YA novels (I’ve read the entire Harry Potter Series 4 times; Just did the Hunger Games), but I was also reading Shakespeare at 12-15; Stephen King, V.C. Andrews and Anne Rice all before I hit 16. I think we need to stop pigeonholing ourselves with classifications. Let the masses decide what they want to read.

KC: I SO love your answer to that question. My thoughts exactly! Any books you’ve read recently that you won’t tell your friends you’ve read? Guilty little pleasures?

MARCEL: Lately – no. But I’m tempted to check out 50 Shades of Grey. I have no shame when it comes to books. I love the fact that I read books and show off that I do. If I can read a book called Sluts in public, I have no shame.

KC: Do you read fiction or non-fiction? Or a mix?

MARCEL: I do tend to aim for fiction. I like the escape a story give me. I don’t need to read real-life stuff, it’s too depressing.

KC: Do you recall any book-to-movie adaptations where you enjoyed the movie more than the book?

MARCEL: More than the book – nothing jumps to mind. There are a few adaptations where I’m ok with the changes made (most of the Harry Potter series for example).

KC: Do you have favourite genres? Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Contemporary, etc?

MARCEL: I lean to crime mystery/legal thrillers

KC: Your 3 desert island books?

MARCEL:

Wow, just 3. This is hard.

KC: Do you have favourite quotes from books? Any passages you felt compelled to highlight or call/text a friend at 3 in the morning to share it with them?

MARCEL: Nothing that really comes to mind. I was a fan of that first sentence from A Million Little Pieces, but I read it long after everyone else and took it for a work of fiction. I still maintain it’s a great story.

KC: “I wake from the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin.” ~ First Sentence from A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.

That is quite a compelling sentence! Thanks so much for your time, Marcel. It’s been great reading your responses. We have some new titles to check out, and reminders of old favourites. Thank you!