“Read Me a Story!” How to Spice Up Author Readings

Face it–we all love Drama. Even when we say we don’t. Period.

We also love being read aloud to. IF the reader is animated. IF the story catches our attention. IF we’re not too distracted by when’s dinner-what-time-do-I-have-to-get-up-tomorrow-wonder-how-bad-traffic-is-did-I-even-remember-to-thaw-that hamburger-oh-shoot-I-forgot-to-call-so-and-so to attend.

Notice the difference between Drama and Being Read Aloud To? There are no “ifs” in Drama. Provide it to your listeners, and…they’re yours.

(all photos courtesy Susan Breslow)

(all photos courtesy Susan Breslow)

That’s what I’ve discovered in my first year of Author Readings. Choosing a good bit of the book to read is key, of course. Providing a nice, gracious, humorous intro–also a must.

[Important tip: get someone who KNOWS you, someone who can make that intro part of the entertainment itself, like my friend and fellow writer Iris Graville:Iris

Even when I’ve checked all those boxes, though, I’ve seen some squirming in my audiences, some furtive watch-checking. But when I’ve done dramatic readings of those same bits, with fellow “actors”? RAPT attention.

Yes, it takes a little more work. You have to round up folks. Bribe them with cookies. Meet to practice. And be prepared for last-minute let-downs. In the case of this last reading, the launch party for Headwinds, my 13 year-old “actor” failed to appear, so I had to read her part as well as that of the narrator.attitude

Turns out I love reading the part of a 14 year-old. Can you tell?

Even little glitches become part of the entertainment. So you flub a line–it’s not a play! You’re not a REAL actor! You’re just an author who happens to be a person with a spirit of adventure, someone who’s reaching out to your audience in ways they can appreciate.

Moral of the story: read, by all means! But when you can, bring others along. Bring your story to life.

And then, when they line up to buy your book–they’re not just doing it out of obligation. They LIKE you–they really LIKE you.


Has anyone else had experience with dramatized author readings, or readings that were made somehow extraordinary? Please share!

2 thoughts on ““Read Me a Story!” How to Spice Up Author Readings

  1. You did it again, Gretchen, with the dramatic reading from your new book – look at the expressions on the faces in the audience! It was an honor to welcome the full house and to introduce you. You also added some spice with your delicious brownies and lemon bars!

    Claire Gebben is another author who used the dramatic reading approach at author events for her book, “The Last of the Blacksmiths” – http://thelastoftheblacksmiths.com. The main character of this historical novel, Michael Harm, was a blacksmith and carriage wheel maker, and as part of Claire’s research for the book, she studied blacksmithing. Her launch party included demonstrations by two blacksmith friends and rides in a horse-drawn carriage.

    At another recent reading, Ana Maria Spagna read from her latest essay collection, “Potluck” http://anamariaspagna.com/writing/potluck/. The essay she chose was about the historic apple orchard in Stehekin, WA, and she brought a box of apples from this year’s harvest to share with the audience. Another great way to spice up a reading!

    • Ooh, props–what a great idea! I am thinking quite a bit about that this morning as I ponder submitting an author package to Third Place Books. Their event application is quite daunting. I wish I could take my little troupe of readers on the road with me, but we’d all have to spend the night in Seattle…I will be seeking more help & advice on this soon.

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