Author Tips: Giving A Reading In A School

As you are aware I am the author of children’s novel ‘Tortoise Soup’. Throughout the latter half of this year I have been searching for the ideal publisher for the book. As those of you in similar circumstances might be aware this can be a long and tortuous process. So far I have rejected one firm offer, but I have two publishers currently considering the full manuscript that I would be very happy to work with so hopefully I should have some good news in the New Year.

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Although the book isn’t physically available as yet, word is out! As a result of the general schmoozing and networking that an author’s life entails I was invited to read extracts from ‘Tortoise Soup’ at a primary school last week. The event was a great succes. In fact they were so enthusiastic that they have asked me to go back and do another reading when the book is released, either in hard copy or on digital formats, so that the children can buy copies. For many authors giving a live reading can be a daunting prospect so here are my tips for making things run smoothly.

First of all you need to be comfortable with your book, with the sound of it. Don’t just read it in your head, read it out loud to yourself so that you are familiar with the rhythm of your words. This can also be a useful part of the editing process as it helps to root out any superfluous words and passages.

Now you are ready to choose the reading itself. If the audience is primary aged, as mine were, then my advice is to keep it short and snappy. The passage should be five to ten minutes at the most or else the young folk can start to become fidgety even if you have the most thrilling story in the world.

I chose two passages from different parts of ‘Tortoise Soup’ but with the same characters involved, this is another important point: choose a passage that doesn’t have too many characters or else the children will become confused. Use different voices for the characters so that the children can tell them apart: don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Kenneth Branagh or a Kate Winslett, as long as you can pull off a couple of accents.

Read your chosen excerpts over and over again before doing your ‘show’. It is great if you can almost read it off by heart and keep eye contact with the children, rather than be constantly looking down at your paper. Here is another helpful tip: stick to paper, keep it old technology. If you use slides, or Powerpoint presentations then there is always the very real possibility that it can go long. Paper never fails to load.

Bring something ‘extra’ to engage their interest. I am a ventriloquist and so I took along my tortoise puppet to play the role of Byron in a question and answer session – the kids love it. But there are other things that you could do – maybe you could hand out illustrations from your book or even give out a few personalised bookmarks (easily available from sites such as Ebay).

A question and answer session at the end is a good idea. Children are inquisitive by nature, and they will have lots of questions to ask after your reading. This to me was one of the most fulfilling aspects, the children were so excited and enthused about my book. It really did bring home to me that I had created something that children would love and cherish, and that is the greatest feeling in the world.

So if you get the chance to give a reading, go for it! Don’t be shy or nervous, your audience wants you to succeed and will be excited at hearing from an actual flesh and blood author. I hope that next year, after the publication of Tortoise Soup, I will be giving lots more readings. Maybe I will see you at one of them?

Here is an advance notice: this Friday, December 21st, the Tortoise Soup blog will be publishing my Christmas poem. I distributed it around my friends last year and the response was overwhelming so please check in here after Friday and I am sure that you will love it as well. Find out how Santa Claus himself is rescued in his hour of need by a tiny little tortoise. Ho ho ho!

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