Today, the Lit Lab gets to give you some tips on public reading from Sally Shore, the founder and director of The New Short Fiction Series.
But first, in June I announced the release of The Wild Grass and Other Stories, along with my Spread the Word Contest. I've felt so grateful to everyone who has given my book a chance so far. Some readers have posted up nice reviews (here and here) and sent me wonderful e-mails to share their personal stories with me as a result of reading the book. I realize that the dialog with readers was something I've always craved, and I feel very lucky to be part of a story exchange in that way. So, thank you!
Today, I'm announcing the winners of the contest, and the results were rather unexpected!
First, the winner of a $50 gift card to a bookstore of your choice is:
The winner of a 50-page critique or a $30 gift card to a bookstore of your choice is:
And, finally, the winner of a full manuscript critique (up to 70,000 words) along with two 10-page critiques by my lovely co-authors, Michelle and Scott, or a $100 gift card to any location is:
That's right. There was a tie between Eric and Carrie for being the top word spreaders, so you both get the top prize. The only caveat is that I didn't ask Scott and Michelle if they'd be up for looking at two different excerpts, so there might be the slightest of glitches. But both Michelle and Scott tend toward kindness, and I bet they play along. If they don't, I'll do my best to wrangle up two additional reviewers that will be fantastic.
Please contact me at email@example.com at your convenience so that I can send you your prizes.
And now some Q&A with Sally Shore!
LL: Hi Sally, Thanks for joining us at The Literary Lab to talk about yourself and The New Short Fiction Series. Let's start with you. How did you decide to become a spoken word artist?
SS: Spoken word was never really a conscious decision. In 1995, having tired of appearing in poor quality theater, I contacted Kimberly Heinrichs, a writer whose play I had directed a few years before, and asked her if she had anything new. She said she was focusing on short fiction, I had her send the stories to me and in reading them, I felt that they could be performed stand alone rather than converted in a play. It was around this time that other "pioneers" were performing literature live - the spoken word genre label came later. I do embrace the category, however, since our format and style are very different from both the traditional author reading and live theater acting.
LL: Can you tell us about The New Short Fiction Series?
SS: The New Short Fiction Series is L.A.’s longest running spoken word series. 2011 marks our 15th anniversary season. Presented at The Writers Junction in Santa Monica in cooperation with Barnes & Noble, The New Short Fiction Series is a recognized standout in the Southland’s artistic landscape. Each performance features carefully selected excerpts from new works of short fiction by a West Coast writer. The New Short Fiction Series is directly responsible for placing 6 newly released books on the Los Angeles Time's bestseller list, and has been the “jump off” for many collections and novels from unpublished stories featured in the series. I produce this monthly live program, and perform with a rotating guest cast of some of L.A.’s most talented working actors.
LL: Has anything unexpectedly good or bad ever happened during or as a result of one of the shows?
SS: So much unexpected good has happened over the years. Many of the unpublished work has gone on to publication (see our book list attached*). Writers/actors have networked in a very unique way - I love the idea of people and artists connecting through the series. Best of all, the series has come to have a life of its own and is recognized as one of the better places to discover really terrific new voices.
LL: You're talking to a bunch of writers here. What's the first thing you would tell us to think about as we prepare to do a reading of our own? What specifically can actors bring to a performance that we writers could learn from?
SS: Writers, when reading, be yourself most of all and don't try to act. Keep it short and sweet (Gypsy Rose Lee was a genius at this, she never revealed all of it) - you want folks to want to discover more of what you're writing, not walk away from a reading feeling they've heard it all and are now done. Most of all, have confidence that anyone attending a reading really does want to hear your work, so don't be shy, just be real.
LL: When I sat with you the other day as you directed some performers, you talked about an "eye line." What's an eye line, and how can we use it to strengthen our reading?
SS: It's a technique actors use when working on green/blue screen projects where we have to "see" stuff that is not really there. Check out the extras on the Jurassic Park dvd to get a good example of this in practice. I think writers at a reading should have some consciousness of where the audience is in physical relationship to where you're reading. Its not a bad idea to look up from your copy occaisionally as you read and connect with the audience.
LL: Can you talk about common mistakes people make when they do a reading?
SS: If you are using a mike, make sure the mike's adjusted to you before you start. (I've seen a few readings where the previous reader was tall, and the next one starts with the mike pointed at the author's forehead). But, again, authors should trust that their work is good enough and read from the heart. If you're nervous about reading in public, just select a short excerpt that's close to your heart and enjoy.
LL: Thank you very much for coming by, Sally!
SS: My pleasure, hope to see your readers at The New Short Fiction Series some time very soon.
* (Davin's note) The book list was really long, so I'm not including it here. But it was indeed impressive!