Reading at Arts Festivals

2 Jul

Yesterday, I attended the writers’ café at the arts festival in my local town and gave a reading from my recently completed war novel. The novel follows the fate of a bomber crew in their attempt to complete their tour of duty. It’s interspersed with tales about the other crews on base, one of which I read last night.

It’s something that I seldom do. It’s four years since I last did so, in fact. The reading seemed to go down reasonably well but I wasn’t happy with my delivery. In everyday life, I’m a very confident person. I talk to groups of people for a living. I read the Moomins to my children with gusto. For some mysterious reason, I just seem to have a block when it comes to reading my own work. I get nerves. Having spent years playing in bands and taking part in theatrical productions, it’s something I’m not used to experiencing.  Any tips from seasoned readers will be gratefully received!

Other readers were cool as cucumbers. And there was some impressive writing on display. Sian Notley’s monologue was superb. It was a shame that my writer friend, J Huw Evans couldn’t be there to treat the audience to his performance poetry, though.

Anyway, the reading that I gave has been added here to the ‘Writing’ page of this blog. I hope that you enjoy it, should you happen to take a look.


The author (centre) many, many moons ago, having recently departed the stage… And yes, that’s a bad haircut. Photographer unknown.

Text © PSR 2013, image © the photographer


6 Responses to “Reading at Arts Festivals”

  1. Stephen Henning (@Henningopolis) July 2, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Too hard on yourself. I thought your reading was good. It was my first time at the Writers’ Cafe and I have to admit I pretty darn nervous too. I think you’re right, there is something very different about ‘performing’ your own writing. Like giving a Best Man’s speech.

  2. Paul Sutton Reeves July 2, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    Hi Stephen and thanks for your comments.

    Yes, it’s a strange phenomenon, that’s for sure. I’m generally horribly self-assured! I didn’t notice your nerves and felt that you read well.

  3. Sofia July 5, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    I am always nervous when performing something, even though i’m not a writer but I have performed music on stage. Maybe lot’s of people are more nervous than we think? Anyway, good luck with your writing and your performances in the future! i’m gonna read your extract.
    Have a nice day!

  4. Paul Sutton Reeves July 5, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    Hi Sofia and thanks for your comments. Yes, I think lots of people do get nervous, but as I say, I usually don’t. I played in bands for years and totally overcame stage nerves. Odd! Thanks for the good wishes. I hope that you enjoy the extract and your weekend.

  5. J.D.Hughes July 16, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    I’m not terribly good at readings but having directed several hundred voice-overs I know that reading in public is a professional art. My way of compensating for my own deficiencies in this area is to ignore my audience and read to myself.

    You know your story better than anyone else, Paul; you know the nuances of each sentence and the meaning of every paragraph, but concentrating on giving a performance will render that unique knowledge useless. Your book is not a performance but if you read it – simply, without frills – as you would like to hear it and importantly as you heard it as you wrote it, your audience will hear it as you want them to hear it. Nerves are no longer relevant, since you are not giving a performance to be judged as such, but rather revisiting how your book sounds in your mind and letting the audience listen in, if they want to.

  6. Paul Sutton Reeves July 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Hi J.D. and thanks for your comments.

    I ignored the audience too but someone watching told me that I shouldn’t have! Anyway, that looks like some very sound advice you’ve given there – I’ll try to take it on board. I have another reading in October, so I’ll report back…

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