Lesson No. 5: How to Give a Kick-Ass Reading: The Dos and Don’ts


In this video workshop, we’re going to discuss “How to Give a Kick Ass Reading: The Dos and Don’ts.” 

You’re ready to put a face to your words and you’ve been invited to read at KGB Bar  or an off-site event at AWP or a local coffeehouse. You’re a little nervous. You want to be entertaining, poignant and memorable.  Impressive. And you want to have fun. Here are some dos and don’ts when reading at an event. 


What You Definitely SHOULD NOT Do

  • Get too fancy, just read (literary readings are not “dramatic readings”);
  • Make noise or a spectacle of yourself when other writers are reading;
  • Drink too much alcohol BEFORE your reading;
  • Ignore your fellow readers;
  • Go too long (follow the given format);
  • Show up late.


What You Definitely SHOULD DO

  • Choose an excerpt that infuses humor, dark irony and/or sex (all three together make for a fantastic reading—see Chuck Palahniuk’s reading of “Guts.”)
  • Have one glass of wine or beer prior if this is your thing, but limit yourself before your reading (a sloppy and drunken reader does not come off well);
  • Introduce yourself with something personal and humorous;
  • Read in a measured, minimalist voice (hold the audience with the context of your words; pause between phrases and clauses; when you inflect, make it minimalist; this is the difference between Robert De Niro and Adam Sandler);
  • Thank your host, the publisher of your work, your fellow readers, the venue and the audience; (Yes, this is a little bit “oscar” but it will be appreciated, just don’t overdo it, you aren’t winning a Pulitzer);
  • Personally thank your host, venue, interested readers and fellow readers after their reading has finished. This isn’t a time to pump up your writing career. This is the time to be gracious and make friends. Writing comes with so much necessary isolation as part of the craft. Grab the moments when you can enjoy the camaraderie of fellow writers.)


“Guts” by Chuck Palahniuk