Writers , Want Tips on #Reading to Audiences? #amwriting

Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome Tania Hershman, who’s been on this site before, and is one of my idols when it comes to writing short stories. She’s here to talk about one of the things I find most difficult about the writing life: performing your work in front of audiences.

So here’s Tania on writing and performing her work!

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I am writing this while listening to music on my computer, which seems fitting for a piece on performing your own work. Getting out of the house, getting up in front of of an audience, standing (or sometimes sitting) holding a piece of paper, a sheaf of papers, a book, or sometimes empty-handed, and giving yourself directly to a group of people. Does this make it sound as joyous as it is for me? I hope so! I know, though, that it is not a pleasure for many writers, so let’s talk about it.

I’ve been writing seriously for about 20 years, although it really all started in childhood. But a year or so ago, I changed my Twitter profile from “writer” to “writer/performer” as I realised that performing my work, giving readings, was becoming almost as important as the writing itself, or at least as important as being published. A wonderful friend with whom I am developing a two-woman poetry and prose performance sent me a quote recently from American poet Stanley Kunitz in which he talks about a writer reading her work in public as a “secondary act of creation”, and this is how it feels to me. It is not simply a live presentation of what is already on a page; it is connection with others, an intimacy of the shared physical space and time, an experience that – although it may be being recorded – is in fact ephemeral and unrepeatable. You have to be there.

Tania Hershman performing poemsLet’s talk about fear. Many of us are writers precisely because we prefer to communicate through the written word. I know I do. I’m not much of a talker. I am introverted, not comfortable socializing in crowds, preferring one-on-one conversation. I feel I am at my most fluent when I am writing. But, perhaps surprisingly, I love being on stage. This began in my twenties when I did a lot of amateur dramatics and discovered I enjoyed becoming other people, slipping into character. This familiarity with the stage turns out to be immensely helpful when you have a book out – or, nowadays, with the blossoming of the live lit scene, where writers are invited to perform at open mic events.

You might think from this that I slip into a character when I read from my own work, that I become Tania The Performer, different from Tania The Writer (who, perhaps, is different from Tania The Person). But I don’t consciously do this, I don’t put on a mask, I get up in front of people as myself, as much as possible. I don’t want to hide from the audience, I want that connection, that act of co-creation. And this has shifted as I have made the shift from writing short stories to writing poetry. When I read my short fiction, I have to look down at the page quite often, although I try and make eye contact frequently. But poetry is entirely different – I write poems out loud and in the act of editing them, I memorise them, so when I read poetry to an audience, although I have the page open, I rarely need to look at it. Performing my poems, I feel a more intense sense of co-creation: I am reading and being seen by the audience, and I am also seeing them, looking at them, at you.

Terms and Conditions Tania Performing poemsBut what of the practicalities? Well, as with writing, everyone finds their own way to read to an audience. I have been enthralled by readings where the writer hasn’t looked up once from the page. I prefer to stand completely still, but some people like to move around, to pace. I would say that you should do whatever makes you the most comfortable, what fits with your own kind of connection.

What to read? For a long time I thought I “should” only read crowd-pleasers, by which I mean light, funny pieces that make an audience laugh. No-one wants the really dark stuff, I thought. But as my confidence as a performer increased, and as I went to more events, I realised that as an audience member I am happy to be made to cry, to be shaken by a performance as I am by the page. And so now I read whatever I feel I want to read at a particular event, given the nature of the event, who else I am reading with, the length of time I’ve been given. I always make myself a “set-list” in advance, but quite often will adjust the list just before I go on – or in the middle of the performance, especially if another reader has read something that I think chimes with one of my pieces.

When, like me, you are a writer of very short things – short short stories and poems – I feel that it’s important to allow the audience to breathe in between, not to go straight from one to another. To say something in between, not necessarily (as I have noticed many poets do) explaining either what you have just read or are just about to read, sometimes in great detail. But you can tell the audience, perhaps, where you were when you wrote the piece, or a little detail about your day, or you can even ask the audience a question! A lot of my work is inspired by science and I like to mention if a particular story or poem was inspired by an article and then ask if other people in the audience read New Scientist, say, or take inspiration from science. This breaks that “fourth wall” between performer and audience. I should say that this is something I’ve only found the confidence to do very recently, after around 7 years of readings, and you shouldn’t feel pressure to do this.

If there is one thing I would strongly caution everyone not to do it is this: disclaimers. Do not apologise, either for your work, or for yourself and your performance. You may be trying to be funny, but this kind of self-deprecating humour, especially if the audience don’t yet know you or your work, is very difficult to pull off and it sets the audience up to expect to be disappointed. I see this again and again. “Oh, this poem is silly but I thought I’d read it to you anyway”. Be kind to yourself and be kind enough to your audience to allow them to receive your work and make up their own minds, as we do when we send written work out into the world.

Tania Performing poemsMost of all: good luck! Public speaking of any kind is acknowledged as one of the most terrifying things any of us might be asked to do. You don’t have to do it. You never have to do it. But if you think you’d like to, if you want to push yourself, it can be one of the most rewarding and elating experiences and it breathes new life into your own work and it may even change the way you write. Break a leg!

Writers, what is your experience of performing your work?

As a reader or writer have you attended poetry or prose readings? Do you have a memorable experience to share?

Do you have questions for Tania Hershman about her performances, the writing life, or do you need any writing advice?

Tania Hershman is currently to be found somewhere in the UK, reading from/performing her two new books – her debut poetry collection, Terms and Conditions (Nine Arches Press, 2017) and her third short story collection, Some Of Us Glow More Than Others (Unthank Books, 2017). You can hear her read from her own work on Soundcloud and watch videos of her performing her poems and prose at her site , where there is also more information about her writings.

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What Will Happen to Your Body After You Die?

Writers after deathSome people do not like speaking or thinking of death, but is a part of the process of life, its only predictable part, the very end. Writers routinely deal deaths to their characters, and readers often bemoan these.

Death will come to all of us, and the body that has been ours for all our lives will be ours no longer.

Religions prescribe what should happen to a body after the person has passed on, but some countries allow its citizens to donate their bodies for research. I recently read about one such ‘Body farm’ in Texas— on a writers forum, of course.

I confess to not bothering too much about what will happen to my body once I die–in Singapore you are a compulsory organ donor, you have to opt out of it if you don’t want to donate. Beyond organ donation, I’m not really bothered about what happens to my body. I’d love for it to be of use to other humans, animals, plants. From dust we rise, and to dust we shall return.

Writers are often called upon by their art to imagine various situations, and readers/ TV audiences absorb a variety of stories about people, living and dead. Based on these, and your life experiences, what are your thoughts on your body after you are gone?


I co-host the monthly We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join, if you haven’t as yet, to post Fvourite Placethe last Friday of each month a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity.

This monthly event has brought smiles on the faces of a lot of participants and their audiences, and somewhat restored their faith in humanity. Here’s a sampler. Click here to know more. Sign up here and add your bit of cheer to the world on the next installment of September 29th!

Please join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page in case you’d like to be heard by this community (Click the ‘See First’ option when you Follow). If you liked this post, you can have biweekly posts delivered to your inbox: click the SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL button above.

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What have You Published Recently? #writing #reading

Writing and getting published are both challenging. Some people call it fun. For me it is work. Occasionally joyful work, but work, nonetheless. Most of my joy comes right after I’ve finished writing something.

Publication brings validation, the much-needed pat-on-the back that we fragile creative souls need from time to time.

I received a small one last month, at the Litro UK.

Here’s an excerpt from my piece, Almost there, and back again(Click link to read the entire piece)

He sits right there next to her, nuzzling her neck, whispering half-drunken stories, not caring who’s looking, her husband’s friends, or his wife. Rob’s breath fans over her throat and ear, warming her against the light evening chill. She’s waiting for him to make a suggestion, can already hear it whisper within her. The world’s axis has tilted, she imagines the hum of bees who cannot sleep; in the back-garden around them obscene May tulips wilt, their last, gold-dirty-musk smell mingling with barbecue fumes.

published articles stories and novelsFor this weekend, I’d like to read what you all have published in the past few months, whether it is a story, a poem, an article, a novel. So I’m adding a Linky list, open till Monday, and invite you all to add links to your recently published pieces. Anything in the last few months is great.

I’ll delete spam and keep the list tidy, so if you want to browse through the list, read and encourage others, you’re most welcome. The link will remain up, till further notice. I loved the experience with reading posts on my last linky– check out the wonderful blog posts shared there!

In the linky, please do the following:

  1. Link to the piece/ novel you want read, and not to your blog. I’ll delete links that lead to home pages and websites.
  2. In the Blog Title part of the Link form, add the genre and the title (For instance: Novel: The Old Man and the Sea).

Do NOT do the following:

  1. Do not add spam links.
  2. Do not add homepage links to Websites/ Blogs.
  3. Do not add more than one link.
  4. Do not ask me to edit/ make changes to the list. (I edit typos without being prompted, don’t worry).

I hope to have a few things to read by the weekend!

Here’s the Linky:



What have you published recently? What do you think the publication experience gives you? Do you read online journals or magazines? What books have you recently read, and would recommend? What is your comment on my piece at the Litro?


I co-host the monthly We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join, if you haven’t as yet, to post Fvourite Placethe last Friday of each month a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity.

This monthly event has brought smiles on the faces of a lot of participants and their audiences, and somewhat restored their faith in humanity. Here’s a sampler. Click here to know more. Sign up here and add your bit of cheer to the world on the next installment of September 29th!

Please join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page in case you’d like to be heard by this community (Click the ‘See First’ option when you Follow). If you liked this post, you can have biweekly posts delivered to your inbox: click the SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL button above.

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Do You Read or Write Short Stories? #writing #IWSG

Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome Frances Gapper, a brilliant, nuanced, and versatile author. Her latest collection of short stories, “In the Wild Wood” has blown me away, and I recommend it for lovers of quirky, unusual fiction with a touch of the surreal. She’s been widely published: you can read some of her work online in the Irish Literary Review and the London Magazine.

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Short Stories Frances Gapper1. At what age did you start writing fiction? What prompted you?

I was lucky to attend a very good primary school, St Mary Magdalen’s in Mortlake, southwest London, UK. Mortlake: a death lake, but a good one to learn to swim in. Creativity of all sorts was encouraged and I wrote poems and stories. This would be from the age of five or so. I first tasted the delights of fame when an early poem of mine starting “The fish in our tank swim round and round / Round and round without a sound…” was stuck up by the school goldfish tank. I could quote the last line too, but I won’t because it was a bit weak and falsely jovial. Also I won first prize (five shillings) in a book review competition, no one else having bothered to enter. My friend Jane Eccles, whose beautiful drawing Night Tree is on my book cover, went to this school too.

2. What are your preoccupations as a writer? Which of your short stories/ collections would you recommend to a reader who has never come across your work?

My preoccupations as a writer – loss mainly, I guess. Loss in one form or another. I tend to assume all fiction concerns itself with loss and/or death, although I’m probably completely wrong about that. But certainly mine does. As for a recommendation of something to start with, I think ‘The Tiny Key’, a booklet of very short stories (bundled with two other booklets) published by Sylph Editions in 2009.

3. Which authors have been your biggest influences?

There are writers you love to read but whose work doesn’t influence your own writing (or at least you’re not conscious of it), others whose brilliance has a dimming effect on you. More rarely, an amazing writer comes along whose work refreshes and inspires you. It’s so for me with Stevie Smith, Ali Smith too. And all the writers listed below have influenced me in one way or another, as have very many others.

4. Could you name short story authors we should all check out?

Probably your readers will know all or most of these authors already, but here’s a short and eclectic list: Ali Smith, Grace Paley, Helen Oyeyemi, Stevie Smith, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Jackie Kay, Leonora Carrington, Chekhov, Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, Raymond Carver, William Trevor.
See too my essay on Robert Aickman: “Aickman thought the ghost story akin to poetry in its compression and intensity, and his work has been described as ‘English Eerie’ and ‘English Kafka’…” (Aickman’s motto ‘Never explain or apologize’ – which was also the motto of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s mother – is a good one for short story writers, I think.)

And my essay on Dorothy Edwards: “Hovering awkwardly on the fringe of the Bloomsbury Group, virtually penniless and dependent on a friend for accommodation, Dorothy Edwards lacked the two things Virginia Woolf considered vital for a woman writer of fiction: money, and secure private space…”

6. What tips would you give to those starting out on short stories?

  • Learn all the rules, so you can choose the ones to disobey.
  • Read how-to articles, via links on social media, then think to yourself this may be good advice but I’m going to ignore it. Comma splices, for instance, seem to be the latest no-no – well I love comma splices. And exclamation marks!
  • Interact with other writers online.
  • Enter competitions and send stuff out. Lots of people will think your work is crap/meh; this will help you to moderate your own views and be grateful for the occasional kind word.
  • Never explain or apologize (see above).

7. What does your typical writing day look like?

Do You Listen to #AudioBooks and Stories? #AmReading

Audiobooks have been around for a while-– I’m new to them, because in my part of the world, Audible isn’t as good as in many Western countries. I listen to a lot of podcasted stories, the New Yorker podcast being my favorite. I’m listening to Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam even as I write this post. It makes for such a soothing rhythm, a beautiful waterfall of words to keep me company.

Listening to Audiobooks is not reading, some of my friends tell me. But that isn’t true, because according to research quoted in the linked article: “...once you are good at decoding letters into sound, which most of us are by the time we’re in 5th or 6th grade, the comprehension is the same whether it’s spoken or written.”

I like Audiobooks and listening to stories and podcasts for five simple reasons: