Reading in front of people can be a scary thing. Even the Mighty K, who a few days ago cavalierly declared reading aloud didn’t faze her; it was a piece of cake—found herself getting nervous before her It’s About Time open mike three minute read at Ballard Public on Thursday. Fortunately she had The Tips to Keep the Butterflies Subdued. She had sent it to her cousin’s daughter, Lizzie, teen novelist, after that young scribe wrote K of her reading aloud terror. “My English teacher is making me read aloud” wrote Lizzie, “….I still may not do it though…..I’m too terrified to do it.”
So, here are the Mighty K’s Tips to Keep the Butterflies Subdued.
1. Practice. Read your piece (aloud) in your room for half an hour. When you practice, read far more slowly that you think is necessary. Why? B/c doubtless when you’re reading for real, nerves will make you speed up. The problem with reading too fast? No one is going to catch what it is you’re saying. When I read aloud I make sure to go slow. I want people to be able to appreciate what I’m saying. I want them to get it. Read too quickly and you might be reading the best story in the world, but no one is going to catch it. It’s going to go right past them.
Also when you practice, it’s good to do it in front of a mirror, preferably a full length one. So, OK, if you don’t have one in your room, then go into the bathroom or somewhere there’s a mirror. Look at yourself as you read. Imagine you are making eye contact with your audience. And think of your audience as your friends. Think of them as people who are there to hear what it is you have to say. As people who want to hear what you have to say. As people you can trust. As people with whom you’re building bridges.
This is your moment. Shine. But don’t just shine for yourself. Shine for them, too. Say to yourself, my writing is a gift. I am sharing my gift with these friends. I am opening them up to something new. I am bringing them into the world of my fiction, a world I have built. That is a good thing.
Try to get so comfortable with the first line of what you’re reading that you don’t look at the paper at all, but up and out and at your friends. (Remember: the audience are your friends.)
2. Take a deep breath to center yourself. Breathe in all the way to your toes and the tips of your fingers. Now breathe out. Breathe out all the air, from your lungs, from your heart, all the way out to your fingers and toes. Breathe in one more time. Take your time. Go slow. Now smile inside, focus on what you are sharing. Connect with yourself and your friends. Read with a strong voice to the edges of the room so that all hear you. Use all the contents of your bellows–lungs, diaphragm–so that your words carry but so that you’re not straining your windpipe or vocal chords. Keep remembering to breathe. Keep remembering you are surrounded by friends. Keep remembering you are sharing the gift of your story.