Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Joy of the Read-Around

Aspiring writers - whether you are published or not - know that the greatest joy often comes with sharing your work with other writers. They - like no other - can offer feedback after your solitary journey of hand-to-hand combat with words, paragraphs, dialogue and plot. Does this work, you ask? Will this resonate with the reader? The read-around is a lovely exercise of reading aloud what you wrote in an intimate and supportive setting.

The first time I did a read-around was in a convent just outside of Louisville, Kentucky. A writers group was holding its summer retreat there thanks to the Sisters of Loretto. At night as cool breezes shifted the tall grass and Queen Anne's Lace of Kentucky pastureland, a dozen of us would sit in a circle. The nuns would have sung their final hymns for the day. Indeed, we felt as if we were in a monastery, a writer's monastery where the magic and the mystery of our lives were revealed. As night enveloped us, we would ring a bell, light a candle and begin reading to each other. We asked for "readback" lines, sentences that captivated or resonated with humor, poetry or sheer gut emotion. This was our touchstone for more creative work to come.

Yesterday, I sat with two aspiring writers at an outdoor cafe in Tucson, Arizona. The buckskin-colored mountains loomed in the distance against a Southwest turquoise sky. We held our read-around at a little table after finishing a breakfast of crepes and fruit. Once again I was amazed at the joy of the read-around! Of course! Why didn't I see that? Or, does that work better? Thank you. What a lovely way to spend a morning and make the journey of being a writer a little less lonely.
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