Attention, Tired Authors: Put Your Audience to Work

Sometimes my teacher training pays off (or maybe just my social-butterfly personality). When I applied to do an Author Event at Third Place Books in Seattle, and their application said, in essence, “Don’t even think of just standing there and reading; what do you plan to DO with your audience?”, I put that training (and that personality) to use.

I made my audience do all the work. 

First, I made everyone move to sit next to someone they didn’t know. They had to introduce themselves to their new seatmate.

Next, I made each pair play Fast Fingers. “Put your right hand behind your back. With your partner, count to three. On three, bring your hand out showing anywhere from zero to five fingers. First person to call up the total number of fingers showing wins that round. Best of three. Go!”

Five seconds later, my whole audience was laughing. Thirty seconds–relaxed, and ready for the next step…

…where I passed out discussion cards. I had four, and after each one, the paired discussion was followed by whole-group discussion led by people who wanted to share what they and their partner had talked about. Since my books feature a heroine who can fly, these were my questions:

  1. Have you ever had flying dreams? If so, describe them. If not…do you wish you had? Why/why not?
  2.  If you could fly, what would you do with that power? (Seriously!)
  3.  If you could fly, what would you worry about?
  4.  How might flying help solve any problems you have,or how might it have helped you in the past? How might flying create more problems for you?

Sure, after that, I read a couple of scenes out loud, and then I answered a few questions. But the main part of the Event was made up of a bunch of grown-ups enjoying the hard work of thinking and talking about “What if…?” No matter what a book is about, whether fiction or nonfiction, if you wrote it, you can easily think of dozens of thematic questions to pull an audience in. And you get to sit back and enjoy the discussion! Win-win.


So, that’s my tip for other authors, should you be one, or know any. Don’t let those nice folks just sit there looking at you–put ’em to work. (And then reward them afterwards with treats. 🙂 )

But while I have your attention: who says good audience questions have to limit themselves to a book store? How about answering some of those questions above? 

4 thoughts on “Attention, Tired Authors: Put Your Audience to Work

  1. I have had exactly one flying dream in my life. It was extremely vivid. There was a crash, and people in the air and on the ground were killed.

    The next evening, I learned that Pan Am 103 had crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland.

    I do not want to have any more flying dreams. Maybe it’s superstitious, or silly – but I would have a hard time not thinking that I might know ahead of time that others were going to suffer.

    If I could fly – I would probably crash into the side of something. I have an excellent sense of misdirection teamed with vertigo and a phobic fear of falling.

    So, those would be my problems, too….

  2. Whoa. SJ, that is HORRIBLE! Funny how I never even thought about crashing, at least the kind where people get hurt. Clearly our flying dreams are simply reflecting other parts of our psyches. In your case…you’re right, that coincidence is too eerie to wish to repeat. Yikes. Thank you for sharing it, though!

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