In April this year we introduced Celia Moore, one of the members of Chudleigh Writers’ Circle. She published her debut novel Fox Halt Farm in 2017, and had just launched its sequel. Last time, Celia talked about her decision to self-publish her novels. Today she is going to share her experience of reading her book to an audience for the first time.
“Since I published my first novel, I have talked to many different groups of people, from Women’s Institutes to U3As (University of the Third Age), explaining how an idea for a book smacked into my mind one night and just wouldn’t leave me alone. Eleven months later the story I had dreamt up was available on Amazon.
At the start, I had no clue about the craft of writing, nor did I know anything about the publishing world. And now? Well, I know a great deal about both and have a healthy appreciation of how much more there is for me to learn…
I have been through quite a few scary moments on my novel writing journey from receiving my editor’s comments on my first draft to talking on the radio about my book, but still, reading my own words out LOUD seemed quite terrifying.
I was approached by St Thomas library to do a reading as part of a pre-Exeter Literary Festival event. The idea being to ‘showcase’ some local unpublished talent. At first, I was thrilled to have been asked but then I started to question my ability, wondering if I could read out loud in a way that was both interesting and entertaining.
Previously, when speaking to people, I have listed a few key words and tried to engage my audience by using these prompts to ‘chat’ my way through my story about how I came to write my book. But I was scared I’d drone on and on and on as I read an actual passage from my book.
So, after seeking advice from lots of people, I practised in front of the mirror and then in front of my daughter and my dog! And, reacting to feedback, I recorded myself too, playing it back with a super-critical ear.
At the event last month, I stood up with my book and owned up to my nerves. Then I grinned, explaining that I was actually excited to be reading – even if my flushed face or trembling hands said otherwise.
I took a couple of deep breaths before I began and remembered to pause for a second between sentences to look at my audience. I also tried acting out gestures when I could, while I concentrated on speaking slower and louder than usual.
“I didn’t want you to stop,” said someone at the end. And another lady offered “I have to read your book now because I need to know what happens next.”
After all my worrying, I have to say the evening seemed a great success, and hearing from all the different readers was entertaining with something for everyone.
I think two of the contributors summed it up well in an email afterwards: “The readers, organisers, audience reflected some of the best of St Thomas’s attributes in Community – warmth, humour, inclusion, a sharing of skills and hopes…tea and cake!”
There is now talk of this event spawning others such as a scratch night where writers could perform their work and receive critical and kind feedback from an invested audience. Or perhaps, an open mic session with people performing their own compositions (prose or poetry). Whatever happens next, I hope I will be able to take part again. I made some new friends and this week in my talk to a group in Okehampton about my writing journey, I am planning on reading again – I think reading from my book gave an insight into my writing. Oh, and I enjoyed it too!
My debut novel, Fox Halt Farm, is a change-of-life contemporary romance set on the outskirts of Dartmoor. Other locations include London and Paris. The story runs over two decades and is inspired by some of the experiences in my life and the people I’ve encountered along the way. The sequel is called Culmfield Cuckoo.