^^Image copyright Terry Faust
This past Sunday, a group of twelve select authors got up on stage at Kieran’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis to read excerpts from their books.
The stories represented genres as diverse as high fantasy, horror poetry, and bizarro fiction. They spun tales of werewolves, teenage crushes, torture, detectives (one of whom was a dog), and a vegetarian half-troll/half-ogre (trollgre) who was attending a dinner party.
This was the fifth annual Word Brew shindig, sponsored by a local speculative fiction writing group called MinnSpec. I’ve attended four times, read once, and helped organize the event for the past two years. Every year, it grows. And with good reason–Word Brew offers some of the best free entertainment you can find.
I know, I know. Attending an “author reading” sounds dull. We live in a visual world, right? We’re far past the days of Homer reciting the Iliad to an enthralled crowd.
But there’s a reason podcasts are insanely popular right now. There’s a reason audiobook sales surged this past year. People love to listen…and fill in the blanks themselves. It’s a more active kind of entertainment, almost a choose-your-own-adventure. YOU get to decide (to a certain degree) how the world and characters look. YOU get to hold images in your head, like a private movie screening.
Beyond the “movie in your head” aspect, here are four reasons I love author readings (and hopefully you will too)!
1. They’re an intimate experience
Readings are one of those rare occasions when you are afforded a tiny glimpse into a stranger’s soul. These words represent bite-sized pieces of the author’s heart–words that have been written, rewritten, edited, and polished to a high sheen. Of all the words the author has written, they’re choosing to share a select few with you.
It doesn’t get much more intimate than that. Author readings are on the same level as small acoustic concerts or private support groups. There’s something special that passes from author to listener that is difficult to capture in everyday, impersonal life.
2. You get to hear the author’s interpretation
When the author reads, they will emphasize words in their own unique way; they’ll read at a certain cadence; they’ll pause whenever it feels natural to pause. A skilled reader will infuse their reading with emotion and help set the story’s tone with their voice. Hearing the author’s interpretation of the piece might make you think about the story in a different way.
3. It’s a chance for discovery
I’ve attended several author readings on a whim, not quite knowing what to expect. Sometimes, I end up underwhelmed, but usually, I walk away with the author’s book in my hands. Readings open up new worlds. If you want to explore a new author, genre, or subject, why not check out a reading? You’ll get a free sneak peek of some new material, and the only thing it will cost you is an hour or two of your time.
4. You’ll stretch yourself (in a couple ways)
If you’re like me (and many other literature-loving homebodies), you aren’t thrilled about networking or even sitting in a crowd among strangers. Author readings are so damn gentle (and the people so gosh darn nice) that even the shiest bookworms can enjoy them. PLUS, the author is usually amenable to a casual conversation. Even bigwigs like Sue Monk Kidd, whom I had the privilege of seeing a few years ago, love talking to their fans. We’re all lit nerds at heart, authors included.
Another way readings can help you grow is by exposing you to new, challenging content. Authors hail from all kinds of different backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, cultures, countries–there’s no excuse NOT to explore a different perspective. The diverse backgrounds, life experiences, and points of view of authors inevitably work their way into their writing and infuse it with a unique flavor–why not take a bite?
BONUS: Where do you find readings?
- Look for author readings at your local bookstores. Check online listings, as well as bulletin boards (especially for small, indie shops).
- Check out the event page for libraries in your area.
- Search Meetup.com for writing groups and peruse their event listings.
- Follow authors on your favorite social media platform or subscribe to their newsletter (I have one of those, if you’re interested!).
- Peruse event calendars in local newspapers and magazines.
Have you attended a reading lately? What did you like about it? What would you have changed?
Kate Bitters is a Minneapolis-based author and freelance writer. She is the author of Elmer Left, Ten Thousand Lines, and He Found Me. One of her proudest/nerdiest moments was when Neil Gaiman read one of her short stories on stage at the Fitzgerald Theater.