This past weekend I went to Anthocon, a horror convention in New Hampshire. I was scheduled for a reading at 1:30 pm on Sunday for half an hour. I haven't done very many readings so here is how I prepared for it.
1. Had nightmares the week of the reading that I stood in front of everyone naked.
2. Had nightmares the week of the reading that I went to read from my Kindle when it was out of power.
3. Had nightmares the week of the reading that I left my printed copies at home so I had nothing to read.
So, I was off to a great start.
To alleviate these feelings of sheer terror, I stood in front of a mirror and read the first page of one of my stories. I was fine as long as I didn't trip over my tongue. I also made sure I had a glass of water handy for the inevitable dry mouth. Note to self: bring bottled water to the reading for when I inevitably became parched.
Another lesson: I read the first page of another story and enunciated as I read. The exercise gave me one hell of a mouth cramp but it worked.
Still another lesson: S L O W D O W N! When nervous, I read at machine gun speed. If I put my mind to it, I can sound like a carnival barker or an auctioneer, which may be entertaining but isn't conducive to people enjoying what I'm reading.
Yet another lesson: BREATHE! I noticed I could go for several sentences without taking a single breath. By the time I needed to breathe, I felt like I was suffocating. My chest tightened and I felt as if someone rubbed the insides of my lungs with a scouring pad. So after each comma and period, I made a point of remembering to breathe.
By the time I mastered reading, I had slowed my pace, breathed at regular intervals, and became familiar enough with my stories to look up as if making eye contact with my audience. My speech was clear and easy to understand.
By the time Friday rolled around I was ready for my precious half hour. I even hoped to sell a few books. The best part was those awful nightmares stopped. A little confidence goes a long way.
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