Participate in a reading for this residency? Sure! I thought. I can read something, not a big deal. I’m relatively comfortable reading in front of people. What should I read? Well, I have 125 single-spaced pages, surely there’s writing in there worth reading. No problem.

Problem. I started taking snippets from the fucker and putting them together to make a ghost story, a prose poem. It was too much work that did not directly contribute to the book.

OK, how about the intro? Maybe. But what if it’s boring? What about chapter 2, there are some good lines there? I read it out loud and the writing sucked. There were three gorgeous lines stolen from a failed poem that didn’t quite fit into the rest of the chapter, a bunch of overwritten, unclear sentiments, and one decent sentence.

Shit. I went back to an essay I wrote and I began to read it out loud. I had to cut it way back because I don’t have a ton of time to read. But I didn’t hate the words that were coming out of my mouth. The transitions were smooth and/or poetic (that’s a fancy way of saying abrupt, but I meant it that way).

Reading out loud is amazing. There are sentences I hated so much I couldn’t even read them. Cut, cut, cut. I got rid of extra words, clunky phrasings, and the thirty-first time I used the word “just” in a page. I’m going to edit the rest of my damn manuscript that way.

Do you read aloud?

This post is dedicated to J, who tells me to read my shit aloud all the time, and I forget. Maybe if you didn’t live in [location redacted] and we saw each other more often, I could follow your advice. xo



15 responses to “Readings

  1. I’m told I mutter while I write, though I wear headphones, so I don’t really notice.

    When I read my stuff aloud in front of other people on purpose, I have to make sure there are no writing instruments within reach, or I’ll start editing as I go. It isn’t pretty.

  2. Don’t waste your time reworking anything. There’s scene in there somewhere.

    To Averil’s point yesterday, start the scene at the last possible moment, smack in the middle of things. Your listeners don’t need two paragraphs of narrative context and build up for a short reading.

    Do not read pure narrative. Read and actual scene, where people are talking, interacting. And if you can read in their “voices,” leaving out the I-said-then-he-said words, it will be engaging.

    Read shorter than expected. If they tell you you have 10 minutes, read for 8, or even 6!! The worst readings, frankly, are when people read too fucking long. Leave them wanting more!

    You can do this!!!

  3. I love to read my stuff to an audience because I’m a frustrated stand-up comic.

    BTW, I use ‘just’ way too much. It helps to denote want, without the desperation of need. It’s just such a perfect word, a qualifier of sorts which shows you just what I am full of.

    Wouldn’t it be funny if just before you read,you served popcorn.

  4. If it makes you feel better, I learned to read aloud from working with you. So, I guess we should really both just follow our own advice! (But, seriously, read it to yourself today! You do have your own room, after all.)

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