Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Saturday, 25 February 2017

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO READING AT A LITERARY SALON

Recently, I experienced the great delight and terror of being invited to read at my first literary salon, as part of Aberdeen’s Inspiration Point weekend.

But what is a literary salon?

I imagined worthy men of the enlightenment gathering in coffeehouses or smoky backrooms, their faces earnest, talking politics and economics; or refined French ladies lounging on elaborate chaise longue dissecting the literature of the day.


That couldn’t be right? I wouldn’t be expected to lounge on a longue, would I?

I consulted the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, which informed me that:

A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.

Hmmm… The Inspiration Point Literary Salon was to be held at the Lemon Tree, a wonderful small
theatre space in the heart of Aberdeen. I checked the blurb…

Your chance to hear some of the best new creative writing being produced in Aberdeen and the wider Northeast, Scotland.

That description still made me nervous but also thrilled to be invited, along with friends from the Aberdeen Writers’ Room Collective, Rachelle Atalla, John Bolland, Avril Erskine, Gavin Gilmour, Laura Lam, MeganPrimrose and Emily Utter, along with poetry therapy practitioner, Elaine Reid and playwright Morna Young.

Organized by the wonderful writer and creative powerhouse that is Shane Strachan, of Creative Learning Aberdeen, the evening was a fantastic opportunity for all involved.

So what have I learned from taking part?

       
  • Ask a writing friend to check your selected piece for appropriateness
Unless you’re a natural and accustomed to treading the boards, reading dialogue aloud, perhaps taking on the voice of at least a couple of characters, can prove daunting. For a first time reader descriptive prose might be safer ground.

  • Be Prepared
Sounds obvious, but the Inspiration Point event fell at the end of half term. I’d been away from home all week, enjoying time with family. I arrived at The Lemon Tree with only minutes to spare, with no printed copy of my reading to hand. It fell to my husband to make the mad dash home (20 minutes drive away) to print off a copy and return before I was due on stage to kick-start the second half. Note to self – be prepared!

  •  Become acquainted with the running order

A literary salon involves a collection of writers and so it’s good to know who will be reading before
Shane Strachan: organiser and writer
you (a few kind words helps keep the feel good factor flowing) and also necessary to know who will come after you, especially important if you are expected to introduce them with perhaps a short background summary.

  •        Lights

One of the biggest surprises on stage was that due to the spotlights focused on the reader, it was almost impossible to see the audience. No friendly faces smiling encouragement. It was akin to reading into a black hole. However, after several deep breaths, a couple of paragraphs in, as a reader you become immersed in the world of your writing. Keep going… don’t stop….

  •         Know thy route to and from the stage

Packed audience at the Lemon Tree Theatre
The Lemon Tree Theatre was the perfect venue, owning a wide stage, bar at the back, with circular candle-lit tables dotted around the main floor. However, whilst I made my way on stage, I also became acquainted with the many trip hazards  -coat sleeves, handbags, satchels etc. Once my piece was finished and the talented Rachelle Atalla was well into reading the opening of her current novel, the last thing I wanted to do was create an unwanted diversion by tripping and sprawling over one of the beautiful candle-lit tables. So instead, I discreetly choose to sit at the back until there was a suitable opening, which allowed me to make a less dramatic entrance.

Would I read at a literary salon again?

Writing can be a solitary business but during Saturday evening at The Lemon Tree surrounded by friends old and new, many established writers - some starting out, I understood why the concept of the literary salon has continued since the time of the enlightenment and ladies lounging on their chaise longue. It’s because it’s fun and frightening and wonderful all at the same time. Would I accept if asked to read again? It’s a big YES from me.


And if I weren’t reading, I’d still highly recommend pitching up at a literary salon. The Inspiration Point evening was a free event, we heard a fantastic range of new writing and the Lemon Tree bar was open…!

21 comments:

  1. I feel prepared now, should I ever be asked. Thank you Rae. :)

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    1. I'm sure you'll be invited to read your work at an event soon, Victoria. I'm very much enjoying The Thief's Daughter - would love to hear you read it aloud. : )

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  2. It was an excellent first read! I really enjoyed the evening.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Nancy and also for coming along. I hope to hear you reading at a NE event really soon. : )

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  3. Great advice for any kind of public speaking, Rae. And I've never been to a 'salon', but now I really want to go! Congrats to you.

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    1. The Highland Literary Salon meets monthly in Inverness, Gill. Would that be your nearest? https://www.highlandlitsalon.com

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  4. This would absolutely terrify me even though I am used to reading out each week at the writing group I attend. I think it is the word 'literary' that gives me the jitters. I write to entertain people (and for money - see comments on previous blogposts) but 'literary' would make me feel I need to impress them as well - something that's never going to happen!

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  5. The readings were all very different - novel extracts, short story pieces, poetry, flash fiction, even dialogue from a play - but all highly entertaining, Linda. I'm sure you are being extremely humble. You entertain readers, so I'm certain your writing would entertain a live audience too. Prose, rather than dialogue, is perhaps the easiest to deliver. That said, I was terrified. Especially when I realised the audience was around double the size I'd expected! The phrase 'feel the fear and do it anyway' sprang to mind!

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  6. Interesting post Rae - and well done on the reading.Have to admit though that, like Linda, the word 'literary' scares me.

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  7. Doing the reading with friends certainly helped, Jennifer. Also, because I was away from home, on holiday, the week before the event I didn't have too much time to panic about it!

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  8. Sounds like a very enjoyable evening, Rae, and well done for taking part! It's never as bad the second time and your confidence will have risen a little now you've taken the plunge!

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    1. Thanks for popping by, Rosemary. I'm not certain it will get easier, as I think I'll always feel fear when sharing my writing, but at least I've learnt some of the practical pitfalls to avoid!

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  9. Hi Rae, Well done you! It sounds like a great opportunity to showcase. Anne Stenhouse

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    1. Hello Anne, it's not something I would have volunteered to do on my own but when asked to take part with friends it turned into a really exciting, fun exercise. Also, Emily Utter, who's a brilliant writer living here in Aberdeen, helped edit the piece I read, so that gave me a bit more confidence as I stepped on stage.

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  10. Wow, well done Rae. That would terrify me, but it sounds like you took something nerve wracking and turned it into something positive and really enjoyed it in the process. Truly inspirational!

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    1. Hello Elaina, thanks so much for the kind words and for dropping by. The best part of the evening for me was hearing the audience reaction when my writing friends finished their readings - lovely to hear appreciation for all those hours spent at the type-face.

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  11. Sounds like a great event, Rae! Glad you didn't trip over any of the hazards :)

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    1. It was a close run thing, Anita! : ) Thanks so much for reading and commenting. x

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  12. A pleasure, Rae! I'm always on the look out for your posts to read and comment on, as you're so generous with sharing and commenting on mine :)

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  13. This does sound daunting! Thanks for sharing. :)

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