My Stint at Story Shop

I did a practice run with some colleagues last Friday, with a dry mouth and a shaky voice, which I think got most of the nerves out of the way. On Sunday morning, the day of my reading, I practiced once in front of my sister, both of us in our pyjamas, and decided that I would imagine it was just the two of us again when I did the real reading to a group of strangers.

I got some good feedback from my colleagues and sister: show a bit more emotion, vary the tone of your voice, don’t read too fast, project your voice. I was lucky enough to  interview Michèle Roberts when she was up for the festival and she gave me some great advice: “Imagine that there’s a friendly being in the front row that admires your work and wants you to do brilliantly. I tend to imagine that my grandmother, who is dead, is sitting in the front row because she loved me and I loved her very much. If you know your text really well you can keep glancing at the audience and they love that because it means you really know that they’re there and you’re in touch with them.”

Luckily I didn’t have to imagine the friendly beings. My brother and sister were both there to support me so I instructed them to stand at the back and quite far apart so that I could look from one to the other and give the impression that I was making eye contact with the audience. The plan was that they were to smile when I looked at them which in turn would make me smile, but in practice it was quite a sombre story so the most I got was lips pressed together in acknowledgement that I was looking at them.

There were quite a lot of people there, but I was related to half of them so it was not as nerve wracking as I had imagined. Cousins from both side of the family came, an altogether weird situation which would normally be reserved for me or one of my siblings getting married. “Not much chance of that,” my sister said.

I think the best thing to come of it was my brother telling me afterwards that he was inspired to write a story that would be better than mine. And I feel inspired to write more fiction too, and a lot more confident about reading it in public. If you get the chance to read your story in front of an audience, go for it! I can tell you that there is life on the other side. And if you have any advice to share about short story or book readings, I’d love to hear it.

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New Writery Stuff

The Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Awards are open for applications from unpublished writers living in Scotland. £2000 and the chance to work with a writing mentor? Not to be sneezed at.

Previous winners of the award are starting up a New Writers Blog where they’ll be writing about literary projects they’ve been involved with, events and workshops they’ve found useful, and posting samples of their work. The first post, where Billy Letford talks about writing poetry under roof tiles, went up on Tuesday.

I’ll be reading one of my short stories at the Book Festival this year as part of Story Shop. My slot is 4pm on Sunday 22nd August. If you’re around, come along. As nerve wracking as it is to read in front of people, I think it would be worse to be talking into an empty room. Story Shop is taking place every day during the festival so I’m going to catch as many of the readings as I can. I’m looking forward to hearing some brand new Scottish fiction.

Opportunity for Writers: Story Shop

Story Shop gives new and emerging writers who live or work in Edinburgh the chance to showcase their work at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Successful applicants will be given a ten minute slot to read two short pieces of flash fiction or one short story to an audience in the Book Festival’s Bookshop. More information about this exciting UNESCO City of Literature Trust initiative can be found here.

If you are planning on visiting the Book Festival this year, Story Shop is a free event and a fantastic opportunity to hear vibrant new writing from Edinburgh.