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.


Unknown said...

I am so happy that the WWf(a)C practice of read-around has been transplanted to your new home and community of writers.

My book, due out Oct 1, has a chapter on the process, where I learned it, and how it can be used.

It's available for pre-order on Amazon. Women Writing for (a) Change: A Guide to Creative Transformation.

My publicist is encouraging me to follow the trail of wwfac writers throughout the country to arrange book signing and workshops with their help.

Would love to come your way!

Best to you---

Susan G. Weidener said...

Hi Mary,

I look forward to reading your book. Your publicist might want to check into coordinating your visit to Tucson with the Tucson Festival of Books in March. It is an awesome event for writers and authors and a beautiful time of the year to be in Southern Arizona.

If there is any way I can provide assistance or information about Tucson, please don't hesitate to ask. I can say Tucson is a very creative town with a lot of aspiring writers.

D.M. SOLIS said...

Dear Susan,

Thank you for sharing your experience through the post on the read-around. I like your take on it. Saw something recently on readings that don't focus so much on critiques or editing, as on writers as readers, telling the writer how the reading affects them, what resonates, where there's confusion, things of that nature. Your focus aligns with; and there's wisdom and value in it. Again, thank you for your generosity in these pages. Peace and continued good things for you in writing and in life.


Susan G. Weidener said...

Thank you, Diane. As always, you seem to say things with such grace and beauty.

Unknown said...

It's nice to read your post. For me the nicest thing in the world is to love and to share. One of it is to write.

~~ Filipino love ~~