Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jacqueline Woodson - What an amazing reader

Jacqueline Woodson was the lunchtime keynote speaker at this year's SCBWI New York conference. She read from several of her works, notably her middle grade book Locomotion and her picture book The Other Side.
Reading is definitely the wrong way to describe what she did. She recited/performed/transformed her readings. Rarely, if ever, did she look at the page. She just spoke to all of us, as though she were channeling the story. She knew her characters' voices and the rhythms of the language so well.
It was a great lesson in how to read your work. And here's what I learned.
1. Practice, practice, practice. She probably read her work out loud many, many times - both when she was writing it and to prepare for her readings.
2. Be confident. If you don't completely believe in what you wrote, no one else will. There was no uncertainty on her part. She did not care what people thought. She became the story.
3. Clarity and voice. She spoke fast, but I heard every word she said. She also changed her speed occasionally, to create space around the words. Not a lot, just enough to help the audience shift with her.
So, I'm not suggesting you memorize your words before you read to an audience. I'm just thinking you have to own your reading, and there's really only one way I can think of to do that well - practice, confidence and voice.

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