Stand Up and Be Counted

At Wirral Writers' recent AGM I asked to have a new rule introduced at our meetings, that of standing when we read our work. Okay, so I got half my wish - it isn't a rule as such, but instead we now strongly encourage members to stand when they read.

Why do I feel this might be a benefit?

First thing, we are all writing for reasons of our own. We might wish to become big name writers at some time soon, or we are happy enough to produce quality writing for local consumption. But at any time we may be asked to read our work aloud. It might be at one of the local library Friends nights; it might be an invitation to participate in another Vintage Radio broadcast; or it might be as Guest-of-Honour at a convention in a two-thousand seat auditorium. (We can all dream, can't we?) Excluding radio, we would more than likely be expected to stand at one of these events. People want to see us and they want to hear us.
There are unexpected pitfalls that come from reading: The words start to blur from a  fit of trembling; the words start to blur from tears of emotion; the turning and dropping of pages can turn into a fumbling train wreck - it is surprising how far a page can glide, trust me on this one. All these things can be mitigated with practice, though. Familiarity is a great way to eliminate a spot of stage fright. Better to work through the pitfalls amongst a small group of friends.

Then there is the matter of projection. When you are reading your work you want us to hear it. Sitting at a desk our natural posture is curved back, constricted diaphram, eyes down, speaking to the desk-top. Isn't it much better to stand, relaxed, to fill your lungs and give your words the expression they deserve.

My third point, and related to projection, is the theatrical nature of a reading. Standing allows for expression and movement. It allows us to look over the page and make eye contact with the audience. Writing is a form of entertainment. When we read to ourselves we conjure the voices in our own heads. When we are in a position where we must read aloud we prevent the listener from doing this, and we impose our own voice on the narrative. So to do justice to our work there must be a theatrical element to the reading, or the words will lose their potency and fail.

Reading is a performance, and performance takes practice. At Wirral Writers we have a forum where we can practice without risk.

Our next meeting is on 16th January. I'm looking forward to a successful year for us all and a good turnout with one or two new members. Everyone, have an enjoyable and safe Christmas, but try this: Switch off the TV (we've seen James Bond before), fire up your computers, sharpen your pencils and get some words down. Then, when we meet again, get up on your feet, project your voices and perform. Looking forward to it.


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