Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lessons learned from my first Miami Book Fair poetry reading

I know not all venues are like the Miami Book Fair but I learned so much just from this first experience that I thought I'd share what I gained from it; I also want to remind myself what worked for me and what didn't for next time (if there is one!):
  • Hydrate your throat.  Bring a bottle of water--the hosts didn't provide one at the tables and the lights shining on us were HOT!  (This is Miami.)  Also, make sure you have shine-blotting paper on hand or wear lots of make-up because those lights make you look pale (and scared!).  Singers suggest warm honey and/or potato chips (something salty) to smooth the voice. 
  • Bring a clean copy. Bring two copies of your book--one to show, prop up on the table or have pictures taken with, the other to read from.
  • Facilitate page access. Read directly from your book but use some sticky tabs to mark your pages--I noticed several readers hunting around for pages while I was able to transition smoothly from one poem to the next by using color-coded sticky tabs with a keyword from the title on each one so I could see which poem was where. 
  • Consolidate your notes. All your notes should be stapled inside your book so as to not be noticeable--print them out on a separate sheet and then staple or tape it inside your book (cut down to size if necessary) at the same orientation so you don't have to hold your book sideways!  If you want to make a few remarks before each poem, write them at the top of the page on which the poem begins.
  • Avoid fumbling. Do NOT use loose sheets with your poems printed in large print unless you have rock solid nerves because your hands may tremble.  Some people suggested this and it sounded like a good idea at the time, but I'm glad I decided to read directly from the book.  Most of the other writers did, also.  On that note, make sure you use the book during all your practice runs.  Make sure the page turns occur at a natural pausing time in the poems that run over more than one page.
  • Manage your time. Know exactly how long it will take you to read each poem; that way you can mix and match them and know how long you will be reading.  Your watch can fail you and the reading venue may not have visible clocks.  Do NOT read over your time limit and keep in mind that things rarely begin at the exact time, so you have to subtract that time from your reading accordingly.
  • Communicate enjoyment. Remember to smile and act like you are enjoying yourself (if your acting skills are up to it!)
  • Connect. Bring business cards or their equivalent to hand out to the other poets you connect with or fans.
  • Be grateful.  Thank everyone involved in the reading and/or preparing the venue and learn the volunteers' names so next time you can greet them by name! (I hope I remembered to thank the room host in my case.  He was really nice; not only did he pinch-hit when our presenter didn't show up but he also put us at ease and asked the first question during the Q & A. Unfortunately, I did not remember to get his name!)

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