Archive for the ‘Reading Aloud’ Category

Reading Aloud: Dealing with stage fright

This entry is part 17 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

Stage fright is one of the most horrible things about reading. It can be debilitating and, what’s worse, it can cause a self-feedback loop that will make the symptoms manifest in different ways. Some people’s knees shake, others can’t breathe, some people forget everything they know… it can be horrible.

People suggest things like, “imagine the audience in their underwear.”  I suspect that what that exercise actually does is force you to focus on something besides what is happening to your body. Stage fright is basically a triggering of your body’s fight or flight reflex. You get a boatload of adrenalin pumping through and, unfortunately, there’s diddly you can do about that the first couple of times.

What you can address is how to manage the symptoms.

As much as I would like to offer you a magic system to keep the adrenalin from pumping, it’s an automatic reaction and until you’ve done enough of these so that your body no longer reacts as though it is under threat, you sort of have to put up with it.

So… what we’re going to talk about is how to manage the symptoms so that you aren’t crippled by them.

In fact, the Bene Gesserit mantra against fear, from Dune, is an excellent one.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

When I get stagefright, which still happens sometimes, it tends to manifest with shaking hands, difficulty breathing, and a feeling of weak knees. Sometimes, sweating accompanies these. Those symptoms are pretty common, so I’m going to talk about how to face your fear and permit your fear to pass over you and through you, so that only you will remain

Trembling hands

The first thing to know is that probably no one else can see your hands trembling.  Now, if you have to handle something, that shaking will be amplified and thus, visible.  A piece of paper can rattle like it’s in a windstorm.

How can you handle this? Focusing on your hands will make them tense and make the trembling worse. It sucks. But you can mask it. Even if the story is very short, I have extra paper so that I am holding more weight. That additional paper does two things.

  1. It is stiffer so it doesn’t react as much to the trembling.
  2. The extra effort needed to hold the page also allows you to transfer the tension to another activity.

No paper? Depending on the circumstances, I’ll tuck my hands behind my back, hold them in my lap, or hide them behind the podium when they aren’t in use.

Difficulty breathing

While waiting to speak, slow down. Take a minute to inhale to the full expansion of your ribcage. Blow all the air out.  Now just let the next inhalation happen. It will feel more or less normal. Not only does this gets more oxygen into your system, which can help with the adrenalin coursing through you, but it also can release some of the tension that’s keeping your chest tight.   You may have to repeat a couple of times.

While speaking, inhale at the end of each sentence or, at minimum, at the end of each paragraph. Don’t gasp. Just take a moment to inhale and it will simply look like you are thinking. Breathing is natural. Take your time. Slow down. Breathe.

Weak knees

I hate this one.  When your knees feel weak, you wind up shifting your weight from side to side to compensate. It’s part of the urge to flee. It also is distracting and makes you look indecisive. You can’t make your knees feel less weak, but you can manage the symptom. If you have a podium, put a hand on it to stabilize yourself. If you have a chair, sit so you don’t have to deal with the knees.

If you have neither, take some time with your manuscript to mark when and where you will shift your weight. Doing this puts it under your conscious control, instead of leaving it to your body’s urge to flee.


Wear something with layers, like a jacket over a t-shirt.  Darker colors are less likely to show sweat.  Or if you have real problems you can always do the theatre trick of sticking panty-liners to the underarms of your shirt. No, really. I’m serious.

Now… I’m going to show you two videos. One is me speaking normally and in the other, I’m in the full grip of stage fright.

This is part two of a series, but you can see my full body and how I’m using my hands. I’m comfortable with my material. You don’t need to listen to more than the first 30 seconds or so to see that.

In this next video, I’m completely freaking out and pulling every piece of my acting background to try to look calm. Note that I’m having trouble breathing, particularly when you compare it to the first video. I keep looking down, as though I have something written. I don’t. I’m doing that to mask the need to breathe and to make it look like a thought. I use my hands, but anytime I’m not gesturing, I’m touching the podium to stabilize because my knees were shaking.

You will have to watch an ad. Sorry about that. I start talking at the 2:37 mark.

See what I mean? I’m masking a whole lot of emotional adrenalin right there and if you don’t know what to look for, it works pretty well.

Whatever your symptom is, don’t focus on it and let it worry you more. Just know what that symptom is, and think of a way to mask it until you no longer need the mantra. You can’t stop it, but you can acknowledge it, let it pass through you, and deal with the symptoms.

Fear is the little death. But you have control of everything else.

Recording Shades of Milk and Honey, pt 3

The dialect is definitely going much smoother when recording Shades of Milk and Honey. The first day I was covering about 7 pages an hour and my usual speed is 15.  I’m back up to the twelve range, which is still slow but at least in the realm of reasonable. It will be interesting to see how much of a reset is required after the two week break in NYC.

Last night I was faced with this sentence, which prompted me to ask, “Who wrote this?”

She went upstairs to her mother’s rooms and spent a quarter hour helping Mrs. Ellsworth with the arrangement of her pillows—which were not fluffed enough and then were lofted too high, and with the blankets which were too hot and then too cold—when she heard the front door close.

This is fine on the page and true to the period language but– what was I thinking? It is a) freakin’ long for reading aloud and b) really hard to have the last clause make sense after the aside since you can’t scan back to see where the sentence started.

Mental note when writing for something which I know will be audio later: parenthetical asides are hard.

The virtual linguist: Trap-bath split

Ah-ha! I had dim memories of learning a general rule of thumb for how to handle the A in RP English, so I went looking for it.

Until around the 1600s everyone, no matter where they lived, pronounced a the short way, as in trap. But in the 17th century it became fashionable in London to lengthen the a sound before the sounds s, f and th (so-called “bath” types of words). This pronunciation was then exaggerated, making the a sound even longer. Then the long a began to appear before an m or n if they were followed by another consonant (grant, sample, for instance).

via The virtual linguist: Trap-bath split.

Help with listening and reading?

If anyone has time, I could use help with two tasks.

1) I recorded a story (not mine and I promise it’s good) and I need to listen to it to make sure that we didn’t leave any of my stumbles in it. I’m tuning out my own voice. The story is two and a half hours long, but the section in question is just in the first half hour.

2) I have to turn in a list of books that one of my novel length manuscripts resembles. I’ve got one name to offer and then I blank. Is anyone willing to read this puppy and offer suggestions? You don’t even have to read the whole thing! Just enough to say, “This reminds me of [blank].” The only catch is that I’d like to turn in the list on Monday. It’s Urban Fantasy.

Edited to Add: Many thanks to Julia and Scott for responding so quickly!

And now, I’ll go back to doing the layout which is paying the bills.

Reading Aloud: The importance of quiet space.

Last night, to celebrate, I worked. I needed to turn in my recording for PodCastle and had been given an extension because of my cold last week. The dragon lady was not appropriate for this story. Even so, my voice was a little fragile and we had to stop a lot.

Actually, that’s not completely true. The reason we had to stop a lot is because we weren’t recording in a studio. We were in an office building, with Rob’s sound equipment set up as an impromptu studio. The sound-proofing was inadequate, so periodic sirens would force a halt. At that, it was quieter than our apartment. As Rob says, any sound you can hear while recording will be picked up by the microphone and seem louder than in real life.

Which meant that we had to turn off the overhead lights, because the florescent light ballast hummed. It meant that, since the room was very “live” that every lip smack, swallow, or shuffle of paper turned up on the recording. It meant that I had to stand completely still, because the floor creaked and that turned up.

But, we got the recording. Clearly, I have to come up with a different recording space before my next assignment is due.

Reading Aloud 16: The Common Cold

This entry is part 16 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

My niece gave me a cold for Christmas, so we’re going to take advantage of it to show some tricks for dealing with throat ailments. For kicks, I recorded the whole post this time. You can listen to it here OR you can read and just listen to the example clips.

Listen to Reading Aloud: The Common Cold

You’ve probably noticed that when you are sick your voice tends to get lower, right? Basically, what’s going on is this: the pitch of your voice depends on the length and thickness of your vocal cords (folds really, but that’s a tangent) Men have big thick manly vocal cords, while ladies and kids have thinner more delicate ones. When you’re sick, your throat gets inflamed, which thickens your vocal cords. They vibrate more slowly and voila, lower voice.

Let’s pause for a moment to listen to some audio, shall we? I’ll let you hear a recording of me reading Rampion with my normal voice, and then switch to one with my voice the way it sounds right now.

This is the full text of Rampion, but only listen to the first 30 seconds or so of it.

Now, this is me, today, sick. I’m trying to deliver the same read, but I’m not making corrections for the effects of illness.

Sounds like a different person, eh?

Since the cold is lowering my voice, I can raise my pitch and try to compensate somewhat. For me, it feels like I’m speaking incredibly high, but to someone who doesn’t know me, this will do a lot to bring my voice into the range of normal. I wouldn’t want to do this for long, but it’s gotten me through many performances.

So, same text but with me trying to correct.

It’s passable, but there’s a danger here. I have a smaller vocal range when sick already, and by moving my voice up in pitch, I cut off the bottom end of my range. When ill, I mostly have bottom end and then nothing until the very top end. Your mileage may vary, but try humming through your vocal range next time you are sick.

And if you are feeling frisky, take advantage of that suddenly deep voice. Everything can sound sexy with your new range. For example:

Mostly though, the answer to being sick is to rest your voice and to drink plenty of fluids. Stay away from the citrus, dairy and caffeine. But if you have to use your voice, at least you’ll know why it’s misbehaving.

Reading Aloud 15: Choices & Compromises while recording Rude Mechanicals

This entry is part 15 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

When Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press asked me to read Kage Baker’s Rude Mechanicals, I was delighted, because I love the Company stories. I was delighted until I started reading the manuscript and realized that the point of view character was male. I skimmed forward, just looking at dialogue. Most of the characters were male.

I don’t mind doing some cross-gender voicing, but generally avoid it with the POV character, because I think it is confusing for most listeners. I agonized and then emailed Bill and told him that I thought he should hire a male voice artist, because that would serve the story better. He disagreed, and since I really wanted to read it, not much arm twisting was needed.

As I read the entire manuscript, instead of skimming, I realized why he wanted a female narrator. Ms. Baker uses direct address to the audience in a couple of places, so while the narrator stays with Lewis, it is clearly a separate narrative voice as opposed to an extension of Lewis. Know what I mean? So choice number one, was to have a female narrator.

This left me the freedom to pitch the narrator up, above my natural speaking voice. I also chose to make it very feminine to contrast with all the boys running around.

For Lewis and Joseph’s voices, I ran into some trouble. Joseph has more speaking time in some scenes than the narrator. Now, in the stories, Joseph is described as a bass baritone. Clearly, I wasn’t going to achieve that naturally, so we had to look at compromises.

Lewis was the less vocally dynamic of the two, so placing him at the bottom end of my range was easy; I didn’t need a lot of room to hit his emotional levels since he’s a steadier character. Joseph, our bass, on the other hand is very volatile and he talks a lot. I found that I could either nail the character or the pitch, but not both. When I pitched him down, he wound up sounding angry and dangerous, because of the audible effort involved in keeping my voice low. It doesn’t sound strained as if I were going to hurt myself, but the strain is nevertheless present as a tension that was inappropriate to the character. Most troubling, he wasn’t funny. Joseph is very funny in Ms. Baker’s story.

So after recording a test chapter with a lower Joseph, we decided to go back to the higher one because, aside from the pitch, that voicing was truer to the character.

It is true that we could have pitch-shifted my voice to get it to the right range. The software to do that now is good enough that if the voice is heard out of context, it’ll pass as real. However, in the context of the other voices I was generating, the pitch shift was obvious. Why? Because there’s this thing your brain does with a familiar voice, called psycho-acoustics, which basically waves a flag saying “Wrong! Something is wrong!” It’s a complex series of things that involve overtones, positioning, and other technical things that you have no idea that you are processing, you just know that it’s wrong.

To demonstrate, I have three clips for you.

The final Joseph choice.

Me, lowering Joseph naturally.

Joseph, pitch-shifted down 10% from the first clip.

See, even down 10% he doesn’t sound like a bass, but he sounds weird. The weirdness is even more apparent if it’s in the context of an entire chapter of natural voices.

The pitch-shifted Joseph, in context.

With all the other voices that are obviously generated by me, pitch-shifted Joseph sounds like someone else and is jarring. Given those choices, we went with the first voicing, feeling that the characterization was stronger there.

At some point, in a reading, you’ll probably have to face a similar choice and I think that you should go for the voice which will give you the most emotional range and be truest to the personality, even if you have to sacrifice some of the physicality.

Reading Aloud 14: Stumbling and the Sagan Diary

This entry is part 14 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

Early on, I talked about the importance of selecting the right piece for a reading. Some pieces of fiction naturally lend themselves to being read aloud, while others are meant to stay on the page.

In John Scalzi’s The Sagan Diary, I ran smack into that difference. Scalzi asked me to read the preface, which he wrote as if it were a memo, in addition to chapters which were written as if Jane Sagan were talking.

The preface, though undeniably well-written, was not meant to be read aloud and at times seemed well-nigh unto impossible. Consider that the final cut of the chapter is five minutes, but the raw tape is nine minutes long. Here’s a sample of what the session sounded like.

Yeah. Staggering, isn’t it. That was the worst of them, and this is something that I had practiced before going into the studio.

Let’s look at what’s going on here.

The only data of ana–[stumble. I was expecting the emphasis to fall on a different syllable because in several of the previous paragraphs I had read "analysis."]

The only datal– [I was focusing on analytical, and moved the L forward.]

The only data of analytical note are Sagan’s notation of The Third Bat–[I thought, Yay! I got past analytical, and then saw "Provence" and didn't prep for it.]

The only data of analytical note are Sagan’s notation of The Third Battle of Provence and the Special Forces retrieval [stumble] of the Bat– [The first stumble was thinking ahead about Baton Rouge, and the second stumble is that even with thinking ahead, I still didn't prep for it.]

The only data of analytical note– [Damn. Analytical again.]

The only data of analytical note are Sagan’s notation of The Third Battle of Provence and the Special Forces retrieval [stumble, but I'm trying to bull my way through it] of the Baton Rouge’s [stumble, still trying to fight through] ill-fated Company D, about which of course we have a wealth of information, thanks to all the BrainPals that encounter sent our way, and a
discussion of her relationship with prisoner of war named Cainen–[On the page, Cainen was at the top of the new page, and I wasn't properly prepped. I could have bulled through because I hadn't actually mispronounced it yet, but I knew how many other mistakes were in that one so I gave up.]

[pause to say the words that keep tripping me up.]

The only data of analytical note are Sagan’s notation of The Third Battle of Provence and the Special Forces retrieval of the Baton Rouge’s ill-fated Company D, about which of course we have a wealth of information, thanks to all the BrainPals that encounter sent our way, and a discussion of her relationship with prisoner of war named Cainen Suen Su, whose stay with and work for the CDF is classified but otherwise well-documented. [hurrah!]

Now some of those stumbles are because of words that are not of English origin. Provence, Baton Rouge, and Cainen Suen Su. It’s not that the words are hard to say in and of themselves, it’s because they require different mouth shapes than one uses with most English words. Plus, “Rouge’s” is just plain hard to say gracefully.

By contrast, Scalzi says that the Sagan chapters were written, “to reflect to some extent how someone might communicate with themselves in their own brain, and specifically what I think Jane’s internal monologue would be. This includes, for me as a writer, a focus on the flow of words, which I tried to make less like dialogue or conventional storytelling and more like a person remembering events and commenting to herself.”

These had a natural flow so even though the sentences were complex, the words led very naturally from one to the next. Chapter 8, which is about eight minutes long, was read in one take. I think there were two internal pickups, both of which were for performance. Swing by Scalzi’s site to listen to all the chapters.

So,the lesson to take from this is that when you are looking for a piece to read aloud, actually read it out loud as part of the selection process. If you stumble a lot, chances are that you should look for a different cutting. The other thing to learn from my mistakes is that when you are in a public reading, keep going and don’t look back. If you think about the mistake you’ve just made, chances are you’ll make another right away.

Reading Aloud: Singing while sick

I have a mild cold that I picked up from the germ factories that come aboard the boat to meet the Cinnamon Bear. It’s not bad, just a scratchy throat and fatigue–although I suppose the fatigue comes from other sources. Anyway, we carol as people are boarding. I enjoy this even though I’m scantily dressed in a fairy costume. What’s interesting about the way my voice functions when ill is that I lose my mid-range.

My speaking voice drops, but usually my head voice stays more or less clear. I can’t blend the two ranges at all. Now, this is a problem if I’m trying to belt Christmas Carols, (which uses the chest voice and blending) so I dealt with it by jumping up to my upper end and avoiding the midrange. So here’s me, speaking a couple of steps lower than normal, and then singing high soprano because that’s the only sound I’ve got reliable available. It’s useful to know how one’s voice behaves when sick.

Next time you have a cold, I want you to hum through your range. Start at the low end and hum up to the high end, then back down. Now, with me, my voice drops out on the way up the scale, and then comes back again. On the way down, I have more notes. It usually happens this way for me. I’ve been able to use this to compete, perform or audition by either picking pieces that fit the “sick” range or by adapting the work that I doing.

For a reading, I pitch my narrator higher than usual, to get above my dead zone. I save my suddenly deep low end for the male characters. It’s the only time I can really do a convincing male voice. I’ve always wished I were an alto because of that. It seems like it would be sooooo much more useful for voice work.

What does your voice do when you’re sick?

Reading Aloud 13: Sam A. Mowry

This entry is part 13 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

As noted last week, I’m not going to post this week. Now, I asked you to record a story yourself. If you did and would like comments on it, paste a link into the comments of this post.

Meanwhile, I’d like to offer you The Time Traveler Show #9 Halloween Special, which has an interview with Sam A. Mowry, director of the Willamette Radio Workshop. Sam is an immensely talented voice actor and talks about what that’s like. He also reads Jack Vance’s When the Five Moons Rise. Not only is this a chilling story, it’s also a fine example of character differentiation, cross-gender voicing and an emotional invested narrator. Go listen and tell me what you think.

Reading Aloud 12: Narrating with first person

This entry is part 12 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

The tricky thing with reading a story written in the first person is that your narration has the same voice as your main character’s dialogue. There is a simple trick for differentiating when your POV character is narrating and when she is addressing someone else.

For the narration, think, “I am having an intimate conversation in a quiet room.” For the speaking voice, think “I’m talking in a public space.” Without having to do anything fancy, you’ll cause a slight shift in the tone quality of your voice. That sort of shift can serve as a clear marker for which is which.

You’ll want your narration to be more emotionally invested than in most third person stories, but
besides that, it’s pretty much the same as handling any other story.

Yes, it’s a short lesson this week. I’m building a Polar Bear.

Next Friday, I’ll be traveling back to the U.S., so I have an assignment for you.

Download Audacity, which is a very easy (free) digital editing program. Pick one of your short stories and record it using all the things we’ve gone over with these lessons. Then comes the fun part; if you send me the link, I’ll give you a critique.

Reading Aloud 11: Making Sense

This entry is part 11 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

Okay. At some point, every SF story on the planet is going to hit some handwavium. You know the thing I’m talking about, that magic point where you just have to make stuff up in order to cover the gap between what is possible and what you think might be possible sometime in the future. On the page, it can be fine, but then… then you have to read it outloud.

John Scalzi pointed out this clip, which provides the most beautiful example of speaking handwavium with confidence. Watch it and then we’ll discuss.

Okay, first of all, it’s very, very, funny. Second, although this goes way over the line into absurdity, the fact is that even though his words make no sense, at all, by using tricks of pacing and emphasis, he creates the illusion of meaning. The actor’s name is Mike Kraft and he writes and performs industrial training videos. If he used just one of those phrases in an SF story, you’d totally buy it. So let’s see if we can apply what he’s doing to an SF story.

For instance, he’s giving the made-up words no more weight or emphasis than the real things. Look at your sf story. The technobabble words in it are everyday words to your characters so you should treat them as such. At the same time, Mr. Kraft is also using hand gestures, sign-posting and phrasing, to give clues to what words mean.

Hand gestures aren’t an option for audio fiction, but some of his other tricks are.

Signposting, at its simplest, means that he changes the direction in which he is looking when he changes direction of the speech. You can also do similar thing by pausing before beginning a new thought.

Which is really part of phrasing. Notice how he’s using a pause for emphasis here, “Such an instrument, comprised of Dodge gears and bearings, Reliance electric Motors, Allen Bradley controls, and all monitored by Rockwell software is [pause]Rockwell Automation’s retro-incabulator.” It lets you know that what’s coming next is important. He pauses again in the next sentence before each of the “significant” parts of the encabulator.

He also uses emphasis, (which means that he gives a slight punch to certain words by using speed or volume) such as “panendermic simi-boloid slots of the stator. Every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversable tremi pipe to the differential gurdel spring on the up end of the grammeters.”

Back in Reading Aloud 1: The Basics we talked about twisting words that had an almost onomatopoeic quality to them. Mr. Kraft does some of that, but not a whole lot because it would be inappropriate for his character.

He’s also using good old-fashioned stage presence to pull this off. As the character, he believes that each of these words makes perfect sense because they are all part of his character’s world. Watch his hands; his character knows what each item does.

Your exercise for today is to try and read the transcription of this clip. Then I want you to find the most convoluted handwavium in your own fiction and see how real you can make it sound.

Reading Aloud 10: Stage presence

This entry is part 10 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

You’ve honed your voice to be a well-modulated wonder. Now you have to get in front of people and actually read. In some readings, the author remains seated. Some, they stand. What should you do?

Well, it depends on venue, the story and your own preference. If you’re in a small venue with an intimate story, you might chose to sit to be closer to your audience. A large venue, you might want to stand. Those are choices that you should make before arriving at the venue so that you can practise in that configuration.

Back in college, I used to compete in Interpretive Reading, and while not everything is appropriate outside of competition, there are some very useful tricks which can enhance your reading.

Preparation of reading material.
My preferred reading format is a small black binder or a copy of the book/magazine in which the story appears. The nice thing about using the book/magazine is that it makes it easier for them to recognize and hopefully buy. The downside is that it’s often heavy.

cerbotext 1You may want to print your story out in a larger font, and insert the pages into the book, essentially using it as a binder.

Highlight your character’s dialogue lines with identifying colors. (Kaj in green, Grete in pink…)

Place an oversize apostrophe at places where you know you need to breathe, particuarly the places you tend to forget.

A squiggly line under the words you need to emphasize.

Bookmark the first page.

Artist’s white masking tape or rubber band the pages, which you are not reading, together so they don’t fly around.

Write this, don’t improvise it on the spot. People have an unfortunate tendency to repeat themselves when speaking extemporaneously, besides, you’re a writer. Make it as short as possible and make sure it’s in the same general tone as your story. In other words, don’t be funny and then dive into post-apocalyptic horror. You should also memorize it and practise it until it sounds as though you are speaking off the cuff.

Keep your book closed while giving the introduction. When you finish, lift the book and open to the first page. If you’ve marked it, it will open easily. This provides a clear signpost to the audience that the story is beginning.

Pick a point on the back wall to represent each character. When you speak for that character, you look at that point on the wall. This, in addition to your voicing, gives your audience instant cues to who is speaking. This is especially handy in rapid exchanges. It also means that you get to use their “eye contact” with other characters to add another level to the performance. Your narrator gets to play the field, but should mostly stay in the middle.

Decide the area of focus for each character when practising at home. When you get to the venue, pick the specific focal spot. I use stains on the wall, a knot in the panelling, a word in a poster… you get the idea.

You can also use focus to indicate a change in scene. At a scene break, look down, take a pause, and then look back up again to a different section of the room. It’s subtle, but it will help prepare your audience to shift to the new location with you. It’s called signposting.

Body Language
Okay, don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest that you get all into heavy acting. You are reading, not doing a one-man show off-Broadway. But, subtle shifts to body language can help your audience identify character and add another level of emotion to your performance. This is one reason that I like working with a black binder, it means that I can free up one hand for gestures.

Say you’ve have an older character. Try adding a very slight stoop to your reading of his or her lines. Soften the stance of your ingenue.

Say your last line. Hold the focus for a beat. Lower your head. Close the book. When you lift your head, your audience will clap. Do not rush this, no matter how much you want to run off stage.

You may not choose to bow, but please, if you are going to, learn to do it right. Tuck your head when you bow. The audience is thanking you and complimenting you at the same time. A bow is both the “you’re welcome” to the audience and thanks for their praise. To keep your head up, a) makes you look like a duck and b) is like fishing for a compliment. It’s like saying, “I really was good, wasn’t I?”

The depth of the bow depends on the formality of the event, and the level of the ovation. Chances are, that a simple head tuck and slight incline will do you. But honey, if they stand for a reading? You bend way over at the waist and thank them for the courtesy.

In competition you’d just tough it out, but in a live reading, you can have it standing by. The best places to drink are at scene breaks.