“The roaring alongside he takes for granted,
and that every so often the world is bound to shake.”
- Eizabeth Bishop, “Sandpiper”
Readings are a fact of the writing life. They’re one of the best ways writers have to connect with people who love to read. There are plenty of introverted writers for whom public readings are a nerve-wracking source of agony and hair-rending, something to be endured. This has never been my experience; I’ve enjoyed every single reading I’ve ever given or listened to. It’s not to say I’m spared the butterflies and knocking knees, but I love the connection between story, writer, and reader, and for me during a reading the story is the most important thing in the room.
That connection began years ago when I read to my children. It started when they were babies, on through their toddler-hood, and beyond as I started (at their request) writing down my children’s stories and reading them to their school classes. It was just great. With the kids it was never simply passive listening on their part; I could practically hear the gears of their imaginations grinding as I read to them.
I always prepare for readings, as I do for any musical performance. I rehearse the excerpts, standing as I would do for the actual reading, highlighting certain words with a pencil, making notes to myself, and reading over and over and over until the cadence is just right. I’ve played concerts through distractions such as tornadoes and hurricanes and power outages, sirens and heart attacks (not mine), shrieking babies and the worst outdoor conditions you can imagine (think of rain, of setting sun, cannons booming, mosquitoes converging on scores obscuring the notation below while the wind howls and sends the scores flapping - 1812 Overture, anyone?). It’s not to say this is likely to happen during a public reading, but I do like to be prepared for the worst so that if I’m distracted, the words will keep going.
I’m preparing for a public reading, my first in awhile. I’m thrilled and delighted to have been invited by Quattro Books to participate in the Toronto WordStage reading series for their Novella Night on Wednesday, December 14 at The New Dooney’s (formerly Annex Live – details here). I’ll be reading from Harbour View, which I’m now mulling over as I decide which passages to read. It’ll be great, also, to listen to what the other three Quattro authors have on offer. I’m sure mine won’t be the only knees knocking, but I’m looking forward to the evening, which will be open to the public. There will be books for sale, and authors happy to talk to readers and sign copies, if anyone’s inclined to do a little Christmas shopping.
It’s time to rehearse. But first, I think I’ll have another look at this lovely video, Elizabeth Bishop’s poem Sandpiper, for inspiration. Three minutes well spent.