Memoir Reading

The first time I did one of these I read a piece called Eighty-Seven Cents at the library in Virginia Beach. I was nervous and there were two things I was grateful for that day. There was the podium which gave me a place to rest my hands so the audience couldn’t see them shaking, and there was the long skirt I wore which covered the fact that my knees were knocking together.

The changes I made in that piece to bring out its power as a presentation were small, the piece was short and the crowd’s reaction was amazing. I was hooked.

Now, when The Muse announces it’s time for the next round of readings, I eagerly sign up. A lot more time and care goes into the re-arranging of the piece. I cut it down and fine tune it, timing it out loud in hopes of meeting the time requirement. It is difficult to whittle it down to five or six minutes but I manage to do it every time without losing an ounce of effect. Of course, when I read it for the audience it always seems to take an extra 30 seconds – I do enjoy the dramatic pause.

It is difficult to take a chapter out of a memoir and make it a stand-alone piece for a reading, but with the addition of a word here and there, it is possible to catch the listener up on the story line effectively. The more readings I participate in, the more I realize that prepping a piece to be read is a craft all its own, and in learning that craft I feel it has boosted my writing skills immeasurably.

If you are a writer, and you have the chance to attend a reading and take part in it – I highly recommend it. There is nothing like audience reaction to give you a sense of what you have accomplished.

And for all Jennifer’s talk of my fans, I was more grateful to her for coming, bursting with enthusiasm, camera in hand. She hunkered down on the steps to record it, and the audience’s reaction for me. She took candid shots all through the night and basically spent her evening being my personal paparazzi.

I couldn’t ask for a better friend.

Next week, during her tap performance, I plan to be that friend for her.

Before I forget, this week when Jennifer and I got together for our pow-wow, we made collard greens, which you can find a write-up and recipe for on Jennifer’s blog, G.I. Crockpot. It was delicious! You should try it!

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About Michelle L. Johnson

Agent with Inklings Literary Agency, Author, and occasional wannabe comedienne. Firm believer in all things caffeinated. Represented by Jamie Bodnar Drowley.
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6 Responses to Memoir Reading

  1. Michael D says:

    You could really see the reaction of the audience to that piece – a mixture of anger, of sadness, disbelief. The head shaking of the gentleman in the front much like my own when I read it for the first time, and listened to your rehearsal voice note. Thank you for adding the video clip, it really gives me a better sense of the readings that you go to. And I love the pics of the collard green preparation – especially the “De-Stem With Attitude”!!! 🙂

    • jennov75 says:

      Ha! Ha! I added the de-stem with attitude one. I like that one too! She’s so darn cute!
      Thanks again for the encouragement Michael! After going to Michelle’s reading……it blew my assumptions out of the water. A reading wasn’t at all like I thought it would be. Have you ever done a reading?

      • Michael D says:

        I have not had the pleasure of doing a reading, Jennifer. I may look into it. I’m certainly, as you described, one who writes to capture my feelings and my thoughts, but I have only shared on a very limited level. I would think where I live that there would be plenty of opportunities…

      • Do it! Do a reading! And then let us know how it goes on here!

  2. pat says:

    I really ejoyed your reading. I think taping was a geat idea. I wish there was something like this in our little town. I like collards but never tried the croc …it is a will do on my list!!!

    • jennov75 says:

      Maybe you could mention a reading with your writing group. Often times the library will host them. The library might also know of readings in the area, even if it’s outside your town. But I think you could get one going. You’re got the spunk!

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