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How Do You Prepare to Read In Front of an Audience?

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Problem: I agreed to participate in the SPARK exhibit in Alexandria, VA with a reading/reception of work from Round 6 this Saturday, January 16th. I’ve never really read my stuff out loud to an audience, family and friends excluded. I’ve read before a local writing critique group, but each time I sounded like a lame teenager reading his summer essay before a snickering class.

Background: For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SPARK Project, it is a fantastic opportunity for pairs of writers and artists to collaborate on a project “sparked” by the creative work of their partner. I had the great fortune to work with a great impressionist painter named Marty McGihon and look forward to next round this spring.

Does anyone have advice to offer? How would you prepare yourself to read before an audience who will only remember you if your story is dynamite (or you totally crash and burn by freezing up/stammering/sweating profusely)? It’s only a short story, so shouldn’t take more than the allotted 7 minutes…

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