A simple and effective idea: take ten writers, an audience of librarians and teachers and let the writers talk about their work and/or perform it. The writers get to raise their profiles and librarians and teachers are encouraged to use local authors.
Except it was subject to the usual pitfalls. I was fighting off a cold and sore throat combination so thought it better to keep it short but audible rather than stick with the original, longer version and leave mid-poem as my voice gave up.
But why do writers, knowing full well they have an audience and how long they have the stage for, fail to consider the audience? That doesn’t apply to everyone at the Showcase. However, there was the writer who over-ran (“Well, I had so much to pack in.”), the writer who had prepared reading the extract from their work but not the talk inbetween, the writer who complained “People don’t understand this, but…” then explained in unnecessary detail and the writers who asked “Am I all right for time?” (although those immediately following the writer who over-ran are excused on this point as they were aware they had to get the day’s schedule back on time).
There’s no excuse for insulting your audience. Your audience are intelligent and want you to succeed, if only because it’s horribly uncomfortable trying not to squirm whilst stuck with a poor presenter. This audience was good. Live readings enable writers to get instant feedback. Friendly smiles and nods reassure as does laughter at intended jokes. If an audience is frequently glancing at watches, fidgeting and/or reading notes, get the hint and finish quickly. The best feedback of all is that attentive silence that says “we’re listening because you considered us.”
Today lack of consideration for the audience could only backfire. The audience weren’t just there to put a name to a face or listen to writers rattling off a list of publications, readings and workshops but to see how those writers could cope in front of an audience. Teachers aren’t going to book someone who’s going to bore their students rigid or who can’t keep to a specified time. Librarians aren’t going to book a reading by someone who can’t prepare for or work with an audience.
A big thank you to the county librarians who organised the event and the audience who attended.