All writers have been advised to read their work aloud during their editing process.  The mantra goes, “If it doesn’t sound right, it isn’t.”  I agree with that, but here’s a better reason to practice reading your work out loud: if you want to sell your book you’re going to have to stand in front of some unforgiving audiences and do just that.

We’re all different.  Some of us are outgoing, some not so much.  Some of us love having an audience, others would rather hide in the shadows.  And then, there’s that thing called stage fright, that everyone feels at some time or other, and it often occurs unpredictably.

My first such encounter was at 13.  I remember exactly how old I was because it was the day of my Bar Mitzvah.  Like most tortured Jewish 12-year-old boys I’d rehearsed endlessly for months, because what could be worse than embarrassing a Jewish mother in front of all her friends and relatives?  I actually had a decent singing voice, and as the day approached I was belting my part out shamelessly in the bathroom (where the acoustics were good, and I could lock the door).  And then, that fateful Saturday morning.  I had to stand at the bema in front of 200 people, and I remembered that a few months earlier, someone name Arthur Garfunkel had stood at the very same bema performing the same role.  I knew I was doomed, but I survived.

I attended a high school with a student population of more than 8,000.  We had a multi-tiered auditorium that held 2,500 people.  I once won an award for something I wrote and was invited to read it into a microphone in front of a full house.  I thought that was great.  I was so excited – couldn’t wait to get up and show off for everyone.  Until I stood at the podium and saw them all sitting there.  I was lucky I didn’t pass out.

In the years since, I’ve delivered technical presentations, led training sessions, taught classes, and made speeches.  I finally got the hang of it and generally winged it without notes.  I even got to be good at it.  And now, I have to read selections from my books in front of an audience of my peers at Balticon.  This is one tough crowd – I know, because I’m one of them.  Only now, do I realize that reading something that comes from deep inside to a bunch of demanding strangers may be the toughest thing I’ve ever done in front of an audience.  I’ve yet to get through a practice reading without breaking up.

On the other hand, maybe no one will show up.