Over the past month I’ve done a few speaking engagements. Audiences have included a reading group, a writing group and a couple of social groups for the over fifties.
I’ve noted down a few of the things I’ve learned along the way:
- If using a microphone hold it close to the lips. If you move your head, move the microphone as well – otherwise your voice will fade out!
- If you open the floor to questions at the end and none is immediately forthcoming, jump in with, ‘One question I’m often asked is …..’ and then you can talk about whatever you want.
- Forty-five minutes is a long time to talk and a long time to listen. Maintain attention and renew your speaking energy by breaking the speech into modules or topics. Every time you change module you’ll get a new burst of enthusiasm and the slight change of subject will keep the interest of the audience.
- If you pose a question or ask for a show of hands, be prepared in case you don’t get the response you’d hoped for. A quick quip up your sleeve can be useful in this situation.
- Keep readings from your work short.
- Use as few notes as possible.
- Project your enthusiasm.
- Remember the audience is on your side. They want to enjoy your talk.
- Enjoy it!
Birmingham Literature Festival 2018 is currently underway and one of the first events was an edition of the BBC Radio 4 political panel show, Any Questions. It was broadcast live from Birmingham Repertory Theatre last night (5th October) and repeated again today. I was in the audience for the show (if you listen carefully I’m sure you can pick out my particular clapping!) and, although I’m not a political animal, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
When we arrived, the theatre was surrounded by men in high-vis jackets clearing away the security cordons (fences and concrete bollards) that had been put in place for the Conservative Party Conference – the theatre is only a few paces from the International Convention Centre. We were reminded of the conference again by the ‘warm up’ lady, Midlands BBC political journalist Kathryn Stanczyszyn, who did a great job of recapping the week’s main political events and taking us through the clapping warm-up. We did polite clapping, middling clapping and extremely enthusiastic clapping.
On arrival the audience were asked to write down any questions they’d like to ask the panel. Ten questions were chosen and the questioners brought down to sit in the front row. Then the chair, Jonathan Dimbleby and the four members of the panel were brought on to the stage, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, President of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Saquib Bhatti, MP for Rutland and Melton Sir Alan Duncan and the SNP Health Spokesperson Philippa Whiford. With minutes to go before live broadcast, an audience member posed the warm-up question, “What is your favourite Abba track?” The panel’s answers were used as a sound check. We heard the 8 pm pips, the news headlines and then Jonathan Dimbleby was live on air introducing the panel.
Lively discussion followed on Brexit, Theresa May, austerity and the possibility of cyber rather than physical warfare. As opinions bounced from the panelists, the audience graduated through the three types of clapping and added shouts as well. The final question book-ended the warm-up question, “Theresa May came onto the conference platform to ‘Dancing Queen’. What song would you choose?”
Verdict on the evening: Very interesting and I was amazed at how calm the production team and panel were, given it was a live broadcast. I would’ve been a nervous wreck! If you get the chance, go along (it’s free!) or apply to host the show at a venue near you.
In 2019 the University of Southampton will be launching a writing competition based on the theme ‘Sustainable Societies’.
Why am I telling you this now, so far in advance? Because most of the competition categories involve longer forms of writing that take time to develop. Among the categories are:
- Stage Play
- Radio Drama/Comedy Series
- Short Film
- TV Series
All the competitions are free to enter and the prize pot for each category is expected to be £1000 distributed across the first, second and third prize winners.
All entries must, in some way, touch upon building a sustainable society with a positive angle. All genres are welcome. The competition website also says:
“The story doesn’t have to be about sustainability or climate change directly. A rom-com, for example, could be set in a society that replaces ownership with borrowing and the heroine goes to a clothes library to pick up a posh dress and borrow jewellery for her big date; or the hero in a crime drama could use a carbon credit card and hear the news in the background reporting on the wellbeing index instead of GDP; or the characters in a legal drama could live in a city where everyone has gardens on their roofs and generates energy from their own waste.”
So, there should be no problem writing in your preferred genre but including some mention of how the characters and society are living in a sustainable way.
If you’re looking for a new, long-term writing project, why not give this a go? Who knows where it might lead!
Have you ever tried reading aloud to an audience?
Recently I took part in my first fiction evening. It was organised by thriller writer A. A. Abbott (aka Helen) and held at the Gunmakers’ Arms in Birmingham (worth a visit – it’s a lovely traditional pub). When Helen invited me to take part I was a bit dubious, talking to an audience is one thing but trying to hold their attention for several minutes while reading aloud is another. It’s far easier to build audience rapport when you can make constant eye contact, talk with your hands to make a point and ask rhetorical questions to get the audience thinking. Reading aloud means the audience has to concentrate all the time, if they tune out they lose the thread of the story – it’s essential to keep the audience with you. But I decided to give it a go – the worst that could happen would be seven minutes of boredom for the audience.
On the night Helen was a great compere, introducing us all with enthusiasm, live tweeting photos and making sure it all went smoothly. I chose one of my shorter stories (worried about holding audience interest!) that had been published in The Weekly News and also appears in A Coffee Break Story Collection. I practised it several times at home, getting the hang of looking up at the audience without losing my place. I think it went OK – nobody shuffled, people had their eyes on me when I glanced at the audience and there was clapping at the end. The other seven performers were terrific with great stories and some haiku too.
Would I do it again (if invited!) ? I think so but I’d choose a different kind of story. For me the stories that worked best on the night were those with a very strong central character going through an unusual event/experience and very few minor characters. It’s essential that the audience is immediately interested in the main protagonist and not distracted by other characters. Possibly that’s how all short stories should be written anyway.
The mags4Dorset 10th annual creative writing competition wants short stories up to 1,000 words on the theme: A Plastic Nightmare.
First prize is £300 and second prize is £100. Entry is £5 and the closing date is 30th October 2018.
If over 100 short stories are received, mags4dorset will donate £100 to the registered charity, Surfers Against Sewage.
Don’t forget to read all the rules before you start writing. One rule which I’ve never seen in a competition before is ‘Do not use famous people’s names or brands’.
I’ve posted previously about facility to publish paperbacks on Amazon KDP as well as Createspace and the pros and cons of each one. Now you no longer have to make that decision, Createspace and KDP are merging. Chris McMullen has written a very informative article on this. I’m re-blogging it here so that you have the full story. Thanks, Chris!
CREATESPACE MERGES WITH KDP
It’s a logical business decision.
The one significant change has to do with when royalty payments are made. See the section entitled Royalties towards the end of this article.
In 2008 I published my first book with CreateSpace, and in 2009 I published my first Kindle eBook.
When I was learning about publishing with Kindle, I asked myself the following question:
Why does Amazon use a different company for publishing eBooks than it does for publishing paperbacks?
It seemed like it would be convenient for authors and cost-effective for Amazon to have a single self-publishing service.
This is finally happening in 2018.
This is the way it should be, and should have been all along.
THIS IS GOOD FOR AUTHORS
It benefits authors for CreateSpace to merge with KDP.
- It’s convenient to check royalty reports at a single location.
- It’s convenient to have a single account…
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