Last week I attended the UCSD Extension Creative Writing Showcase.
Students from various creative writing classes offered through UCSD Extension read from their works-in-progress. Such a fun experience to hear from so many talented writers!
Reading aloud – and listening to other writers read their work – is part of the Vermont College experience. Reading an excerpt of your work is a graduation requirement. Students read from a podium, using a microphone, and to a receptive audience. Smaller, practice type reading opportunities are offered earlier throughout each residency to help prepare for this exhilarating, and potentially terrifying, experience.
Faculty members also read – occasionally from published work, but raw drafts are shared too. Some favorite memories of pre-published readings include Rita Williams-Garcia changing stance and body language, as well as voice and cadence as she read the different voices in Jumped; Tim Wynne-Jones had us all roaring with laughter as he read an early version of Rex Zero and the End of the World; but some people sobbed through Kathi Appelt’s lyrical reading of The Underneath.
I think reading aloud is such a powerful tool for writers. I also think writers need to read their writing out loud to themselves as part of the revision process, but this kind of reading – to an audience – is a separate animal completely.
If you are planning a working retreat, or simply want to build community and support for writers, I encourage you to consider readings as part of the experience. Five minutes allows for a good sense of a story – and can include a scene and/or entire picture book. Maybe allow up to ten minutes if it’s a small group or special event. It’s like having a recital to celebrate hard work!
Things to consider when selecting what to read:
- It doesn’t have to be the opening scene.
- Choose an entire scene to read.
- Select a scene with emotion and intensity.
- Humor is always appreciated by audiences.
- Action, too.
- It’s better to read less than the allotted time than more.
Thank you to all the brave and gifted writers I heard last week!
Sarah Wones Tomp
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK