The Writer's Life: What to Say After the Reading

I've read at seven different events in the last two months and while it's been fun, it's also been slightly insane. My daily life tends towards the quiet. I've been thinking a great deal about what makes a good reading and what is best to avoid, but here's a new topic: what to say after the reading. As both a reader and an audience member, here are some things I've discovered.

1. Whenever possible, tell the poet something specific that moved you about the reading. If you don't do this, she may think it all passed over you in a dark cloud of confusion.

2. If you are at all inclined, buy the writer's book. They will remember this and love you forever.

3. If your finances or poetic beliefs don't allow for this, tell the writer what they did well ... don't lie ...but find something to show you were listening. It can be as simple as "you have a lovely reading voice." Again, do not lie -

4. Recount one line or a fragment of a line that stayed with you. At La Conner last week a man told me as we walked out that I had read something about a crow he had been moved by. "The wild crow cry why" I said to him and we both smiled.

5. If you read with someone else, acknowledge your peer in some way before you walk off. Yes, it's been a long night or afternoon, but if you just disappear your co-reader may take it personally.

6. Whenever possible go out for a drink or dessert after the reading. This makes for a more festive evening and allows for actual conversations about poetry.

7. Thank your audience. Always look people directly in the eyes when they ask you to sign their books or approach you with a question. Give yourself totally over to that reader for the course of the conversation. A person who is interested in your work is precious. Treat her as such.


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