The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Reading for the Blind

By Anne Chudobiak

I spent some time online this week, researching “how to give a good reading”—a literary reading, that is. Not palms or some similarly forward-looking medium. No psychic centres, no higher selves. But, like any “good” writer, I found myself instantly distracted by the proliferation of online mystics, people like Hedera, Demonesse and DarkChild who gather in cyberspace to debate the finer points of reading the future (“Enya as background music at a tarot reading: yay or nay?”). I had to filter them out, though (-tarot, -palms). They were too disheartening. I still harbour a childhood wish for there to be magic in the world. Would people with psychic powers really need to communicate via computers? I think not.

The ensuing results were not noticeably improved:

“Arrive at your reading venue early. Burn incense or, even better, burn a sacrificial issue of Poetry. Call down the gods and goddesses of your choice. Get used to the room. Of course it will sound different when it is full of people -- still, you can listen to the room as you walk through it. How alive or dead is the echo?”

Clearly, I would have to filter out the poets as well.

That’s when my results started to get truly interesting. I found Mary Robinette Kowal, a puppeteer whose childhood struggle with a speech impediment had ironically graced her with perfect diction thanks to years of therapy. She read competitively in college (Interpretive Reading was a branch of the debating team), and went on to do radio theatre and to record audio books.

Her Reading Aloud site is full of tips for the newbie. Worried that your audience can't distinguish between characters in a long stretch of dialogue? Give them a physical “sign-post” by focusing on a different point on the back wall for different voices. A slight shift in your visual focus will provide your listeners with the cue they need to follow along.

Kowal says lots of other useful stuff as well, but I don’t have time to summarize or even integrate any of it, because I spent too much time this week reading about psychic energies—curse you, DarkChild!—and now I barely have time to review the story I'm supposed to read aloud tomorrow. As usual, I will have to put my faith in the stars. Wish me luck.


Blogger tamara said...

Heh heh. I would have been diverted, too. Will have to check that Kowal book out (having never given a real reading myself...oh, except that turn as MadameTara...)

Tue Jun 05, 09:21:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Good luck Anne! You'll be great! Make sure to take time to ENJOY it :)

Tue Jun 05, 02:25:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Good luck, and good tips!

Tue Jun 05, 03:50:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I see a glorious future of book tours and packed readings, for you. And someone whose name begins with a consonant. That'll be $75.

Tue Jun 05, 09:56:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Very cleverly written, Anne. Good luck! I know you'll do well.

Tue Jun 05, 11:04:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger sass said...

how 'bout this:

just read loud enough so that the dufuii standing way in the back, by the loud fridge, can hear you.

you did amazingly...

Fri Jun 08, 02:03:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Thanks for your comments! I'm glad my Reading Aloud posts helped.

Tue Sep 04, 11:37:00 am GMT-4  

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