Five Tips For Reading Aloud

Hello again!  Recently, I did a reading at Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s fifth annual Art & Words Show (for a look at last year’s show, see this post).  I fully admit that I was terrified, even though I was as prepared as I could possibly be.  It’s always unnerving to speak in front of a large group of people (or a small group, or anyone for that matter), at least to me.  So, I thought I would share a few of the tips I received before my graduation reading at Stonecoast, along with a couple of my own rituals.

Me reading.  Pardon the blurriness.

1.  Practice.  In order to read aloud well, you have to read the piece out loud.  This seems like common sense, but a lot of people don’t do it.  It’s how you learn what lines or phrases trip you up.  It’s how you get a feel for the rhythm of the piece.  For me, it’s how I figure out where to take breaths since I run out of air quicker than most.  I tend to practice once a day or so for at least two weeks (mostly because I get anxious if I don’t).  You can practice in front of loved ones, or you can be like me and do it in front of the computer.  My desktop usually has pictures of people, so I get the feeling of eyes on me, but if I screw up, no one actually witnesses it.  But yeah, practice.

2. Don’t expect a distraction free environment.  If you only practice in complete silence with no one around, distractions during the actual reading are more likely to be noticeable.  And let’s be honest, try as they might, the people who put these things together can’t guarantee absolute silence.  Be prepared for a cellphone going off or a door opening/closing or someone coughing or whatever.  I practice with my phone on and Dad bustling around in the other room and the dog wandering around and all that.  It makes ignoring the minor distractions during the actual reading much easier.

I can’t help with this.

3.  Wear something you feel confident and comfortable in.  If you look and feel good, it makes standing (or sitting) in front of people much easier.  It can’t be just one or the other.  If you feel smokin’ hot, but your legs are cramping up from those stilettos you aren’t used to wearing, your focus is going to be elsewhere.  On the flipside, if you show up in sweats and fuzzy slippers while everyone else is business casual, you’re going to feel out of place and your focus will still be affected.  So yeah, keep that in mind when picking an outfit.

4.  Have things scripted out.  This is more for the severe introverts like myself who don’t do well with ad libbing.  Write down everything you want to say and practice it along with your reading.  That being said, don’t freak out if you have to go off script.  You know exactly what you want to say, but you might have to reword it on the fly.  It’s terrifying, I know, but I find that if I have what I want to say in front of me, it’s much easier to pick out the main points and work them to fit the situation than it would be if I had to pick them out of thin air.

This last one is for my nearsighted people.

5.  If you’re nearsighted and wear glasses, take them off.  I did this for my graduate reading and it made the reading much less intimidating.  The audience’s faces became a blur, so I couldn’t see any judgmental looks, but I could see my pages just fine.  For this recent reading, I kept my glasses on and kept my eyes on spots just above people or between two people every time I glanced up.  Avoid eye contact, but try not to make that avoidance obvious because apparently audiences like it when they think you’re looking at them.  It’s weird, but there are ways around it if it makes you nervous.

I admit that I’m not a seasoned reader, so any advice you can offer is welcome.  See you next week!

Grey Days

Hello, hello!  I’m writing this a little earlier than usual (Monday instead of Tuesday), and it’s a really drab (cloudy and humid) day.  In fact, it’s supposed to be dull and potentially rainy most of the week.  A lot of people I know talk about how wonderful days like this are for writing, but I just don’t see it.  Back when I did most of my writing at like two in the morning, weather didn’t really affect me.  The only time it bothered me back then was during thunderstorms and that was only because of a fear of random tornadoes springing up, so I’m fairly jittery during them anyway.  It wasn’t until I started writing during the day that I noticed how the sun affected my writing moods.

Stolen from Google.  Maybe if this were my view, grey skies wouldn’t bother me.


People are different, I know, so I’m just saying that writing is harder for me on grey days.  I feel more lathargic than usual.  A headache is almost always involved.  So, I’m one of those people who wants to binge watch Netflix or read manga and munch on chocolate until the sun comes back out.  It’s worse if it’s super humid and warm.  If it’s freezing cold (that’d be 60 or below in Texas), I don’t mind it as much.  Maybe because it’s supposed to be yucky outside at that point (or at least that’s what I tell myself).  Who knows.  It’s just not conducive to writing for me.

On the flip side of that coin, if it’s sunny and beautiful and warm out, I also get distracted a lot.  The sunny weather is energizing and all that, so it’s not because I’m lethargic and feel like crap, which makes it a lot easier to push through the writing avoidance.  On those days, I simply tend to have a ton more “ooo shiny” moments than usual (also known as “Squirrel!” moments ever since Up came out).  But, like I said, it’s easier to work around those moment.

Focus… focus… SQUIRREL!  Yeah, like that.


I suppose my preferred writing weather is probably sunny and cold or sunny and super hot.  Something energizing, but not anything I want to be out in.  The kind of weather I can occasionally glance out of the window at and be satisfied.  I’m not an outdoorsy person anyway, so most days are okay for writing.  It’s just those super blah days and the incredibly beautiful ones that get to me.  The in between is fine.

At least I’m not the only one.


So, what about you?  Do you find certain weather patterns to be more conducive to writing than others?  Are you a sunshine or stormy day writer?  What about daytime writing versus nighttime writing?  Or maybe you don’t care either way.  Maybe I’m just trying to rationalize my avoidance of writing on certain days.  Feel free to share your thoughts here or on any of my social media links!

Until next time!  Write on.

Knowing when to Stop and Breathe

Hi everyone!  So, I’m not really the best person to talk about stopping and smelling the roses, mostly because I’ve never been really good at that when I have specific goals to achieve.  In fact, if I have goals, chances are that nothing else in the world will exist for me, especially roses.  But when that happens, I have a tendency to burn myself out and end up overcompensating in the other direction (a.k.a. goals suck, let’s just veg in front of Netflix forever).  It’s an annoying balancing act that I can never really get… well, balanced.

I traced a photo of a rose, then colored it in Photoshop a long time ago.

Is this a common problem among writers?  Honestly, I don’t know.  A lot of the people I talk to seem to have more problems meeting goals rather than being obsessed with them, so of course I feel like the odd man (woman?) out.  I guess my biggest problem is knowing when to let goals slide.  Granted, I’m more apt to look at my list of goals and push reading off to make time for writing, but it makes me feel super guilty.  I also push the things on my list that are for other people higher than things like my word count.  I can always make up my word count tomorrow, right?  Like that ever happens.  It actually usually means not taking that second day off.  *eye-twitch*

And, of course, when I do find a nice balance, I have to start changing things.  I recently decided to try upping my word count from 900 words five days a week to 1500 words.  Throw some new obligations on top of that, and I end up spending all my time doing everything except having a life.  It got a little rough this past week, which is what brought on this ramble.

A random thing I made a long time ago. I like structure.

I needed to stop and take a breath, which I did.  I’ve proven to myself that, under normal circumstances, I can do 1500 words five days a week with no problem.  Right now, I can’t.  As much as it ticks me off to say that, I just can’t do 1500 words AND everything else I need to do AND have time to relax.  It’s impossible.  Thus, my new plan for balance!

I will continue with the new obligations for as long as they last (three to six months at the moment), because I made a promise, I enjoy what I’m doing, and I’m gaining a lot of experience should I decide to teach at some point in the future.  That’s my first priority.  Second, instead of worrying about words for a while, I’m going to work on revising my first novel again (surprisingly not as time consuming or stressful as writing all the words!).  When I do get back to writing toward a word count, I’ve decided 1000 words are good enough until I have fewer things to worry about.  And apparently I have to add a goal to my list that boils down to “have fun away from the computer, or  GO OUTSIDE, IDIOT!”

I should probably add “draw something” to that list.

It’s not an easy thing to achieve, but balance is necessary.  We can’t always focus on work (that’s a fast-track to insanity), just like we can’t always focus on fun (unless you’re a billionaire, then yeah).  Remember to stop and take a breath, or smell the roses, or whatever.  Just don’t kill yourself to achieve all the things on a list that doesn’t account for spontaneous interruptions or miscalculated times (we all have those things we say will take half an hour, then three hours later it’s still not done).  Take some time and go outside!  Or whatever.

A Day in the Life

Hello all!  So, I was chatting with the beautiful Danielle Rose, trying to come up with a topic for this week’s post.  She suggested I talk about my routine a little more, even going as far as telling you about my usual day.  In other words, blame her for this.

Graduation selfie with the culprit
Graduation selfie with the culprit

Honestly, today (Tuesday, March 17, 2015) was really hard writing-wise, so I suppose it’s as good a day as any to use.  My daily routine always starts with the hour and a half+ long process of getting out of bed and into a presentable state.  I won’t bore you with the details.  Anyway, I’m usually up and active by 1:30 or so.

At this point, I usually putz around on Facebook and check my personal email and all that fun stuff, or I work on a crossword puzzle.  Today I did all of the above.  I also started playing that stupid trivia game that’s so popular right now.  Trivia Crack?  Whatever.  It’s basically multiple choice Trivial Pursuit.  So, that also took up some time before breakfast.

lesion-clipart-39056-clipart-illustration-of-a-stack-of-five-square-waffles-garnished-with-whipped-cream-maple-syrup-and-berries_450Again, I eat food instead of modeling it.  Breakfast is usually about an hour, and it’s TV time #1 of my day.  Afterwards (around 3:00, 3:30), it’s supposed to be time to work.  Some days go better than others.  Today was not one of those days.

I stared at the page for a few minutes, then said screw it, and gave myself until 4:30 to work on the crossword (that was less than half an hour).  Then I stared at WordPress for a while.  Sometimes, if I write the blog post first, it gets me in my writing rhythm.  That didn’t work.  So, I read through the last chapter I had written, all the way to the point where I had stopped.  Again, this is a technique to get the writing juices flowing.

creativejuices1It kind of worked.  I got down a couple of hundred words, then remembered that I hadn’t posted on my social media author profiles.  I gave myself ten minutes to find something and get it shared, then back to writing.  I got another hundred words down, then took another five minutes break.

Normally, I’m done with my words around 6:00.  Today, dinner rolled around (7:30ish) and I still wasn’t done.  I took the hour break and instead of hanging around for the usual couple of hours of TV, I went back to work.

That was when I hit my stride.  Granted, I ended the day with only 905 words on the novel (it’s over my 900 words goal, so it counts) around 9:30, but I did it.  Then, I came here to write this post (another ~500 words)!

The point is, it took me for-freakin’-ever, but I didn’t give up.  I set my goals and I met them.  You can do it too!  Even with unplanned for distractions last week (babysitting), I managed to meet my goals.  It helps to have people who support you and help you out.  It also helps that I have nothing else to do.  However, look at all the breaks I took!  Maybe writing can be done when you’re avoiding your responsibilities (we all do it, it’s okay).  Take a break, write some words, have fun!

Top 5 Distractions and How Not to Avoid Them

 Welcome!  Last time, I talked a little about creating a writing schedule, so I thought I would discuss distractions a bit.  Now, I know people who swear by eliminating ALL distractions, even if that means cutting off all those fancy electronics they’ve collected over the years.  I’m not one of them.  Personally, I believe in indulging those procrastination itches in moderation.

displayI’m going to go through the top five instances of procrastination (and yes, realizing that that’s what they are is half the battle) I face or hear about , so I can show you what I mean by “moderation.”

1.  Let’s start with the hardest one: Social Media.  Who really goes more than half an hour without checking the Book of Faces or Tweeter or whatever social site is hot that week?  It’s damn near impossible.  I know.  I get those urges, even when I know I’m supposed to be writing.  I don’t suggest going cold turkey.  If you’re anything like me, ignoring the urge only makes you fixate more.  I moderate things by only allowing myself a five minute break when I hit a lull in writing.  Even then, I limit myself to checking my professional accounts or my writing group.  Otherwise, I’d get sucked down the rabbit hole.

down-the-rabbit-hole 2.  The most annoying of all: Calls/texts.  It’s not annoying because of the people (unless they know it’s your writing time and do it anyway), but because we have this weird desire to know who did what when.  Personally, I keep my phone in sight.  I allow myself that half-second glance to see if it’s important.  If it is (it rarely ever is), I respond.  If it’s not, I write on, assured in my knowledge that I’m not missing anything important (aka everyone I know is safe and nothing life-threatening is happening)!

3. Music.  I classify this as a distraction because many people think it is.  I allow it to play while I work.  Once I get into a scene, nothing can really pull me out of it.  If you’re the type to get easily distracted by music, but still want to listen while writing, I suggest instrumentals or something in a language you don’t speak.  That way, you’re less inclined to sing along and lose focus.

GTGKW4. TV Shows.  I rarely get this urge, but I know it pesters a lot of people.  When it does strike during writing hours (or bursts or however you write), if I’m in a lull (always wait for a lull), I let myself look at the episode description and remind myself that watching that episode will be my reward when I’m done doing productive things.

5.  Food and drink breaks.  A lot of people I know sit down to write and are suddenly overwhelmed with hunger or thirst.  Lies!  It’s just your brain saying “Waah… I don’t know what to write.”  My advice, keep a drink with you and keep snacks in your writing area.  My chocolate and Pocky stashes are on my desk.  Pick something bitesized and keep it nearby.

I guess what all this is meant to convey is that you don’t need to eliminate distractions.  In my experience, it’s better to acknowledge and moderate them.  All work and no play makes work freakin’ unbearable.  Just make sure to limit yourself so you still get your work done!