• One Minnesota Writer

52 Ways to Shift Your Focus

Shift #22: Read Your Stuff Out Loud

Writers tend to be quite comfortable in front of the computer or behind the covers of a book. We try to think about our audiences, but there’s nothing quite like being face-to-face with one to force us to get it right. Or as close to right as possible.

Last year, I wrote about going to and giving readings in a post called, Readings: Give One, Go to One. Then, I had gone to a reading by Gary Snyder and given a reading at a friend’s house. Both experiences pushed me to consider my work from a different angle, to think about how what seems to work on the page might not be as stunning when read to someone else, what really goes into a good story. For my own reading, I was nervous because I truly dislike being the one in front of the audience. But the Gary Snyder event inspired me to keep at it.

It also pushed me to buy a few more books, but I digress.

With more than a year since giving a reading, I had plenty of time to forget why it makes such a difference to look your audience in the eye. This year’s reading, however, was much better because I wasn’t the only person doing the reading aloud. This year, I was part of a line up of poets celebrating Every Day Poets’ second anthology publication. My colleague, Oonah Joslin, who is the managing editor at Every Day Poets, and I planned an evening of sharing both our own work and work published at Every Day Poets. We also welcomed contributing EDP poet Dave Morehouse, who graciously read aloud two of his poems that we’ve published.

Here are the three of us:

This time, the reading was fun. A lot of fun. Oonah and I both read humorous work, which actually did make people laugh (whew!), and we shared other pieces that were more serious. It was the first time we’d been together at an event, since Oonah lives in the northern part of England and I’m here in Minnesota. It was also the first time we’d met Dave, who lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and who has family in the Twin Cities, which made it an easy choice for him to join us. This sort of event offers not only that face-to-face audience experience, but it allows interaction among people who practice the same art and work through the same sorts of successes and frustrations.

It’s also a good reason to drink wine and eat lots of wonderful food, including the wonderful brownies and lemon bars my 11-year-old buddy Andrew made, but I suppose I’m digressing again.

The three of us could have talked all night. Two of us nearly did (the beauty of having Oonah stay at my house).

It’s going to take me a while to process how this shifts what I’m working on right now, but I wanted to offer this up as part of the 52 Ways to Shift Your Focus series without delay. I’m struck by how friends show up for this stuff. By how people listen. By the way writers and other artists stick together.

Community really is important. Writing is not as solitary as some people might think.

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