OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Successful writers have to be able to speak effectively to audiences. They need to be able to communicate ideas, speak with microphones, perform their work, read from their books and be comfortable in front of crowds.
I want to be a successful author which is why I went to this workshop at the Sydney Writers Festival last week.
This workshop was run by Miles Merrill, a young American performance poet who works with schools all over Australia doing poetry slams. He performed some of his pieces and was just mesmerising in his movement and vocal acrobatics.
The workshop was not taught from material but more of an experience. We did several writing pieces and then performed them in various ways. All of which moved me out of my comfort zone!
Here is some what I learnt:
- Performing your work, rather than just having it on the page, creates a powerful connection with a live audience. I remember the poems performed by Miles vividly. The old man on the bus challenging people's perceptions, the racist cafe owner stabbing the Aboriginal.
- Animation in your voice, pitch control, using voice modulation, different tones for characters can create realism and experience. I also asked JC Hutchins about this in reference to podcasting his novels. It takes practice but its worth doing so you can actually perform, rather than just read, your work.
- The power of breathing to calm the nerves prior to performance. Miles says he still feels the fear every time and uses deep breathing prior to going on stage, as well as energy releasing first moments, plus rehearsal to cope. We did a breathing exercise and I realise how little I breathe properly, how little I am aware of my body at my desk when I write. Embody the physicality of your work.
- In performance, don't lecture. Tell story and let people's minds do the work. Have a core point but use stories to illustrate, rather than lecturing.
- Performing can be liberating for your own creativity. You can create and perform immediately. There is no time lag for editing, cover design, layout, publisher etc … you can just do it! Also, don't take yourself too seriously!
It was a fantastic event at a great festival. You can see my video report from the US Publishing Trends session here.
If you are interested in learning more about speaking as an author, also check out this podcast with Karen Schmidt, professional speaker and author.