Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thinking Out Loud ~ Reading Your Writing Aloud When You’re Not Published

I have mixed feelings about a reading event in the near future. It is something the writer’s group I belong to has coordinated and at first I thought, sure why not. Then as one week went by, then two weeks, I thought more about it. We have one writer in the group who is working on publishing a book of poetry that should be ready by then and she has other books published. She will be the featured author of the event; the rest of us will follow on her coattails and have the opportunity to read a small sampling from each of our work.

I think it’s wonderful for the others, but as I think about my own participation, it feels too much like putting the horse before the cart—I can’t remember the proper saying, but you know what I mean. I am part of the writer’s group to get feedback on my writing and to give feedback, to develop as a writer, not to share my unpublished work in person with others, who may not even be interested. Sharing our readings with an audience is an idea that came up shortly after I joined the group. I’m thinking out loud here, so I can get a sense of where I am and how I feel. I think I’m leaning toward not participating. I can see why the group wants to do this, yet I am having trouble seeing how useful it is to present ourselves as a writer’s group and here is what we write. I write for myself and for the interested reader—interested being the key word.

I suppose it just feels premature and perhaps it also has to do with being clumped into the group. Contrary to being in a writer’s group, I’ve never been much for groups. It’s only recently that I realize one or two groups couldn’t hurt—the other being a book club, which I haven’t attended yet. I want my writing to stand independently, not as part of the group. That is not to sound as horrible as it may, but hopefully the meaning is understood. I put myself out there by blogging, and I am so very thankful for my readers and anyone who comments. One day if I do publish a book, then I will be happy to do a reading, but until then, it just doesn’t feel right in my bones. Perhaps I’m looking at this too narrowly

My sense is the group wants to be heard by a wider audience than just the current group members, but they seem to want to do it in an in person forum. I think I’m going to sit this one out.


keiko amano said...


I love your "thinking out loud here."

I've never done a public reading, but because I've been editing and rewriting some of my stories so many times for more than 10 years, I don't mind if someone else read one for me. I want to sit among audience and listen and see the reaction of the audience. I think I feel this way on the pieces that I don't expect much more improvement.

Some of my pieces, I probably will not bring it to a public reading, but even those, I have read each at least once in my workshop. This is more on testing myself than testing the chapter, I think.

Vincent said...

Hi Rebb, I never gave you my feedback on the writers' group I joined. Have been to the second meeting now and it has taken off. There are seven of us and we have agreed to bring something each week for review. I offered to read the piece I brought but instead it was photocopied to review next time. I'd knocked it together extremely hastily, & it's certainly not ready to publish as a blog post. Everyone else is into fiction, though the leader is more into scripts (radio, film, TV).

How many are in your group? Since you are a member your voice counts, and it cannot impose anything you don't want to do. What do you mean by "sit this one out"? After our first meeting I decided not to come again. There was one person who came to that who told endless stories to big himself up - how he sold his Jiffy condom business to Richard Branson's Virgin Co, who turned it into Mates, how he toured Africa as a kind of pro-condom anti-Aids missionary, how he was going to turn all these adventures into novels. Fortunately he didn't come back!

Now we are a bunch of hesitant individuals with ideas of our own. Merely by our discussions there was so much to learn. It was clear there would be issues in critiquing one another's work because we may not be interested in the other person's topic or genre. But that is where it becomes humbling.

I think I may have aroused negative prejudice amongst some of the others for my outspokenness, snobbish ideas about literature, old-fashioned values and so on, but this is all part of the fun; and outspoken does not equate to insensitive in my case.

So this member who is to read her poetry - fine for her! Poetry is designed for reading out loud. I hope you will use your slot to tell them why your work is not written to be read out loud, but to generate an intimate bond of attention between one writer and one interested reader - not shared public appreciation by a group.

Rebb said...

Keiko, Thank you. I can see how it would be beneficial to also hear someone else read your stories to see the audience reaction. One of the lead members offered for someone to read my work in the public setting. Luckily I took my public speaking course and feel better about speaking in front of others. I would want to read my own work; however, you bring up an interesting option. I could sit in the audience and listen to all the others read including listening to someone read my piece. Hmm. I still haven’t made my decision. More to think about.

On another note, I don’t mind recording my voice. In fact there is one piece that I have not typed up, but when I do, it’s one that I want to record and post the recording. It will be in English, not like the two small poems I read in Spanish and posted here. I’m nervous, still don’t know how I feel about my verbal voice. Good practice, I suppose.

I wouldn’t mind reading within our workshop, taking it public is another matter. Testing yourself…yes, you’ve given me much more to think about, Keiko. Thank you.

Rebb said...

Hi Vincent, I wasn’t sure if you had decided to stick with the writers’ group. That’s great that you have. I see that the structure of your group is a bit different than ours. We have twelve in our group, but usually between five and seven show up for the group meeting. We have meet once per month, with a submission date where each of us is to email the group our submission, so that we gather our comments and bring them to the group that takes place about two weeks after the submission. Every single member provides feedback in the group meeting and then later email the comments, which can sometimes be more detailed or we may have new thoughts based on the discussions. It’s very helpful.

By “sit this one out” I was referring to sitting out the public reading as a reader. I may go to the event and sit in the audience for support and to see how it goes, but I’m leaning toward not participating. It’s not until sometime in October and I may change my mind, but I just don’t feel ready in general and as you pointed out below I’m not looking for a audience in this fashion. Bravo for the others, of course.

I’m glad that person didn’t come back, so that you would! We have a clear leader in our group and he keeps us on track. Our meetings were lengthened and now go for 3.5 hours and that’s only with five to seven attending. Time goes by fast.

Yes, the writing group process has a way of pushing us to appreciate the work we are critiquing, even if it’s not what we like or normally read. It forces us to step away, knowing it is important to the writer. I’m forced to read two ways, always looking to offer constructive comments, as best I can.

I would love to listen in on your group with you speaking about your views, etc. That would be priceless. I can hear you already. I’m so glad you shared your experiences so far, Vincent. I hope that you continue on with your writer’s group.

Yes, I think it’s great that our one member will read her poetry and have her books available for purchase. That makes sense to me and is exciting. I think I will email the leader and let him know that I will not be participating in the readings, but that I will likely be an audience member, cheering them on silently. Thanks, Vincent.

keiko amano said...

Rebb and Vincent,

Yes, I would also love to listen in on vincent's group with his speaking about his views, but especially on the day the man who told his condom business success story! Vincent, I enjoyed reading your above comment.

Rebb, about your group, I had a similar type of group before. We had eight people and met once three weeks, and four submit their stories one week ahead. We did that about a year until I went to live in Japan. I miss it. It was fun.

Rebb said...

Keiko, I like the format of this group. It’s my only reference point, since I’ve never been in a writer’s group before. I learn so much listening to what everyone has to say about all the pieces. Are you still able to join the group again when you are back in the U.S.?