International Women’s Day – Make it Happen!

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Anna Munro was a Scottish suffragette who was a founder of the Women’s Freedom League. In 1912 she walked from Edinburgh to London to protest because women were not allowed to vote for Members of Parliament.

As a feminist, I support International Women’s Day (IWD) as an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality. And as a writer, I support fellow writers, particularly Scottish women who are making their voice heard through fiction.

 

download (1)So when I saw that my pal, Clare Archibald, was involved in organising a book event on IWD called, ‘Cream Tea, Gin & Corsets it sounded like the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I don’t drink tea or gin and I’ve never worn a corset but the lure for me was three things:

 

  1. The book reading was by Lucy Ribchester
  2. The event was in Burntisland
  3. It was associated with the Women for Independence(WFI) Coastal Fife group (but was open to all women whether they’d voted Yes, No or who couldn’t care less about independence).

I’ll explain why these 3 factors were a winning combo for me…

  1. Lucy has recently been shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award in addition to huge praise for her debut novel, The Hourglass Factory which explores the suffragette history within a fictional setting. (You can read a review of the novel on one of my favourite blogs, The Writes of Woman).
  2. When I was wee, a day trip to the seaside had us heading to the Silver Sands at Aberdour (Lucy’s hometown) for a picnic on the beach then on to Burntisland for a shot on the shows so it was a great excuse to revisit a childhood haunt.
  3. I was proud to vote Yes in last year’s Scottish referendum and I live in hope that the work of groups such as WFI can make the dream become reality.

So you can understand why I was keen to spend IWD at an event that brought together women of all voting histories and futures in celebration of female achievement and possibility.

I don’t live as near to the Fife coast as I did when I was a child so it took me over an hour to get to Burntisland but it was well worth the time and effort. At my table, the plate of scones was shared between three lovely women – Clare’s mum, her neighbour and a woman who had many connections to my own hometown – we could’ve talked for hours! This year’s IWD theme is ‘Make it Happen’ and being there to hear about how women in Scotland helped change the course of politics and society made me feel very privileged indeed.

Did you Make it Happen and celebrate IWD this year?

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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?