Monday, April 18, 2011

On Readings

Before my book came out I set myself the challenge of reading from each story in my collection in public. As there are eighteen stories and there's no such thing as a book tour for a New Zealand author, this was quite ambitious and meant I couldn't afford to double up on any stories.

Here's what I’ve read from so far:

So that's 7/18 or a slightly over a third of the way there in 10 months. Thank goodness for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, as I'll have tons of reading opportunities in Sydney next month.

Question: What can female residents of a Juvenile Justice Centre relate to? Answer: Please don't let it be one of the seven stories I've already read from!

I've already had to let the CWP people know what passage I'll be reading from at the event on 21 May when the winners are announced. I've gone with the opening of 'Parisian Blue', so that's one more to check off the list.

It always surprises me how long it takes to choose a reading, even when it is to be 1-2 minutes long. In fact, the shorter the reading the harder it is. The endings of my stories tend to be compacted into a readable 1.5 minute chunk, but much of their power relies on the repetition of early elements in the story and when divorced from that context, they seem (to me at least) a little weak. Also, there's the fact you're acting as your own spoiler in the case of stories with twists (though that didn’t stop me reading the end of ‘The Sceptic’s Kid’; perhaps that’s more of an dummy-twist-and-go?).

With short readings I prefer to be funny over deep (though both humour and profundity tends to be the product of several pages build up). With longer readings I try to pick something that doesn't have a sentence that makes me cringe and that may link to something I can talk about as a kind of spur for questions and answers.

I also shy away from dialogue that will force me to put on voices (though I have broken this rule already). Thankfully, most scenes in my short stories tend to boil down to double-handers and I can resort to the 'turn this way for him', 'turn that way for her' form of delivery.

With Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne festivals this year, I should get down to two or three stories left to be read. At that point I may just stand on a street corner and yell at people: "It began with a puddle…"

No comments: