I have been organising and hosting live literature readings under ME4 Writers’ ‘Write Now!’ banner for two years. It’s an occasional live night of readings, fun activities and cupcakes, with the aim of introducing and showcasing a variety of genres of writer, with the emphasis on local writers. I have also organised showcase and discussion nights for female playwrights, and am developing a new playwriting night to start in Kent in Autumn.
It’s really hard to get noticed as a writer, so developing a portfolio of related additional interests is a really good idea.
Organising literary events is a great way to start to develop this portfolio and gives you a chance to showcase your work, as well as that of others. This series of articles is to help you set up your own live literature event.
I will be covering Planning, and Themes and in this article. Further articles will cover Venues and Contributors, and Promotion.
The key is planning and organisation
The first event I put on was a baptism of fire; though I had helped out at events and arranged fundraising parties for plays before, I had never really organised and hosted an event. But somehow I ended up organising and hosting four literary events in as many weeks.
Having a back-up plan is important, and being flexible as people will always drop-out at the last minute. It’s all about what you can get done for free or very little money – you would be surprised how helpful people will be, once you explain what you’re doing.
Before you even start to think about who will be performing…
Think about why you are doing the event, what are its aims and where would be a good venue. If you do go for an unusual venue, check out that whoever owns it has the relevant public liability insurance.
Have a theme
I think the best literary nights take you on an emotional journey, so think about the order and try to start and finish with your strongest writers. The theme could be very loose, and every writer will interpret the theme differently – at least, make sure they do, as no-one wants to hear five pieces of writing that are all of the same pace, and the same story.
Brevity is best
Keep individual stories down to 1,000 words, or less (works out around 8-10 minutes when read). Unless you have a brilliant storyteller, listening to the same person telling a story becomes soporific – maybe this is due to where we are used to hearing stories, as children, at bedtime. In fact you want to try and get some brilliant readers involved if you can – a point I deal with in the second in these articles.
A slot for a poet should also be no more than 6-10 minutes. This could be as little as reading 1-3 poems – they can always do more later, if time allows, it is important to break up the sound of the reading voices and the styles of writing. Make sure you stick to the running order, so you don’t end up with writers who haven’t had a chance to perform as other people have run on.
So that’s the introduction to planning your own literary event. If you are inspired, read the next article dealing with Venues and Contributors.