From Page to Stage

There’s lots of advice online about reading your work in public and one of my writer friends, Suzanne Egerton has shared her top tips which are well worth a read.

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The quirky venue for the course was Scottish Storytelling Centre includes the historic John Knox House on Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile.

But there’s nothing to beat face-to-face training and I was lucky enough to gain a place on the Performance and Presentation Course organised by the Scottish Book Trust with the aim of bringing a writer’s work to life, perform better and overcome nerves.

As someone who has a book due to be published next year, I want to make the most of any readings and events I have to promote my writing to engage better with my audience. There’s no hiding place these days, festivals and literary events are now an important part of promoting your work and a great way of connecting with your audience so it’s crucial to get yourself and your writing out there.

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Although my day job involves public speaking, that doesn’t mean that I felt I’d nothing to learn. And I was right. The course was excellent and I now have a LOT to work on to improve my performance.

Alex Gillon is an experienced voice coach who has worked extensively in theatre, television and film and she shared the benefit of her expertise with us by critiquing our performance. The feedback was brutally honest and not for anyone lacking a thick skin. But Alex’s ‘tough love’ style was highly effective as all seven of us made noticeable progress and eventually earned a hard-won “better” from Alex.

download (1)My main weakness was adding false beats in the text and pausing where there was no full stop or comma. Breathing properly from the abdomen to fuel the voice was a key point for all of us and Alex also emphasised the importance of appropriate body language.

One issue I addressed with Alex is my apprehension to read out the swear words and non-PC terms in my writing for fear of offending an audience. Alex’s advice was to commit to the words from my novel and give them the power they deserve as if there’s no heart in my delivery, there’s no truth. Thanks to Alex I can now say the ‘F’ word with far more impact, a skill I never expected to achieve! The key message I will take from the course was Alex repeatedly reminding us that, “they’re your words, use them!”

The added bonus of the course was that for the second week in a row, I met other lovely writers, in particular, Clare Archibald, a kindred spirit I ‘know’ from Twitter but haven’t managed to cross paths in real life until now. I also enjoyed meeting Stephen Shirres who is the chair of the West Lothian Writers group and Lindsay Littleson who won the Kelpies Prize for her children’s novel, The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean! which will be published early next year.

Do you enjoy reading your work aloud in public? Have you received professional training to help develop your performance? What’s your top tip for a great performance?

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “From Page to Stage

  1. What a great idea, Helen, to have a session with a voice coach! I do think there is an extra layer of anxiety reading one’s own words even when we are used to public speaking. And swear words add another layer. It sounds as if you had good advice.
    Hope to get the opportunity to hear you read some time.

  2. That sounds a useful course, Helen. Did he give any tips about avoiding a dry mouth? I always make sure there’s a glass of water to hand. And breathe!! As for losing your place in the text! I use an index card now to make sure I don’t skip. I try to read the line then look at the audience to deliver it – If you read with your head in the book the audience can’t hear….

    • Hi Marie, It was one of the most valuable courses I’ve been on. Alex didn’t mention a dry mouth but she did have water by her side. Good idea with the index card. Alex mentioned making sure you’re ready to turn the page a few lines before the bottom so there’s no awkward fumbling. And yes, eye contact is essential to connect with the audience.

  3. Sounds like a great course – although I thought you were great at reading when we did that wee session at uni. Already looking forward to the launch! x

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