I had lunch a few days ago with Gill Butler, who hosts the literary events at Blackheath Halls, to discuss the format for Wednesday evening. I still can’t quite believe that they’ll be charging people to come and hear me talk. It makes me feel slightly better when I remind myself that the only people likely to turn up will be friends who live locally, but then I feel bad again when I remember that they can hear me wittering on for free, any day of the week.
I enjoyed meeting Gill, who has a real passion for books and devotes so much time and energy to organising these events of behalf of the Friends of the Halls, but it still feels strange to hear someone I’ve never previously met talking about something I wrote as if it merited serious consideration. Clearly this is something I need to get over, but after a lifetime of not taking myself seriously, it’s hard to start now.
I’m also beginning to question the wisdom of having written a first person narrative in the voice of a petty criminal living in the western states of America in the late nineteenth century. For the sake of the audience, I shall keep my reading very short.
How do other writers approach public readings? Some, I know, are quite theatrical, almost acting out the passage they’re reading, but if you’re not blessed with a strong voice or dramatic skills, what do you do? I feel I should be rehearsing, gargling, doing exercises to warm up my voice, not planting bulbs, going to an aerobics class and climbing into the loft to investigate the strange object that may be a wasps’ nest, to list a few of the exciting things I’ve done today.
Notice the absence of any mention of writing – although I suppose this blog sort-of counts. I did, however, finally post a reply to the fan letter I received, with an SAE enclosed, a few weeks ago. Lovely – and astonishing – though it was to receive, I felt a great deal of responsibility to answer the questions posed in it seriously. I even dug out a very expensive fountain pen that was part of a prize in a short story competition many years ago, but it obviously needed a good clean, and would only make faint marks on the paper, so I had to raid my son’s pencil-case for some kind of roller-ball thing. My handwriting is so abysmal, though, that I needn’t have worried about what I wrote because it will be impossible to decipher.
Come to think of it, I have read every word of each of the Harry Potter books to my kids – most of them twice – so I should be able to read a page or two of my own prose reasonably competently. Although maybe it was the sound of my voice droning on that made my children such good sleepers…