Category Archives: Reading out loud

Putting your writing out there – whatever way

sharon at CWC Arthur Ellis short list Marilyn Kay photo

We. all have to start somewhere to get our writing out there – first for publishing and then to promote the published work. Both can involve some reading in public. But getting out of our comfort zone of behind our laptop, Ipad, etc. isn’t easy at first. Our “audience” might not like our work. They might say rude things about it – like “don’t give up your day job soon.” They might not get what we are writing. Or maybe deep inside there is a fear of …not failure, but success.

Oh sure, I can say that easily, you think. I, who do live skits and TV shows featuring Dana Bowman, my author readings – alone or with other authors, which come across more as acting then reading. I who teach writing workshops and courses. I, who approach venues to do some of the aforementioned. And let’s not forget my 35 years as a freelance journalist which required much story pitching.

Dana Bowman does the into

It’s that last phrase that is important. Not the 35 years, but the years of experience. Maybe being a senior has something to do with it, too. Where you know your life length is ticking away so you (or I do) tend to take some chances you wouldn’t maybe do otherwise. I also am known as a big mouth – not just having a loud voice. I say what I mean and sometimes I’m blunt. Taking after my late mother? Maybe, but as I said, age can make a difference.

But it was not always this way and I’m not referring to age. Let me give some examples.

When I was 20 I began submitting short stories to magazines. One editor, of a now defunct magazine wrote a note back about one story “This isn’t a short story; this is an incident.”

I was so incensed, so upset that I gave up writing short stories for years.

But I didn’t give up writing. I just switched – to journalism, which I had been interested in anyway. I took many journalism courses at what is now Ryerson University in Toronto and at Seneca Community College. After the Seneca course in 1976, where every student in the course got published somewhere on their own merits and with good suggestions from the instructor), I started pitching stories to local newspapers

Not without trepidation. My first story pitch was about a local noisy ratepayers group.My then husband had to stand by me at the phone while I called and talked to the editor. When the editor said to “send the story” I got a little brave and mentioned that I had sent him a humorous personal essay and he said he would check it.

Both were published as were many more. And after those two, for journalism stories I just pitched the idea first. Personal essays, like fiction, you usually write first and pitch after. I also moved along to other local newspapers – at the request of their editors. So I wrote a weekly community news column for first one newspaper and then another.

But that didn’t go smoothly all the time. For the first one, the editor forgot to tell the current community news columnist that she was fired. She found out when I called her in her capacity as spokesperson for a community group for info. Oops.

At this newspaper I really messed up. Six months after I started writing my column , the editor of another newspaper asked me if I wanted to switch and write a similar column for them. Although the pay was higher, I declined out of loyalty to the first paper, because of the short time writing the column.

The following year the first newspaper gave me a raise of the princely sum of $5.00 a week. So when the “new” (as in a year and a half) columnist for newspaper no. 2 told me she was moving out of the area and so leaving the newspaper (yes, we “rivals” knew each other – covering the same events. Hey, a reporter from the first newspaper and a reporter from the second newspaper got married – they met covering town council meetings. Both became my friends and they are still married, although they each went on to different jobs and are now retired).

So I ate crow and phoned the editor at the second newspaper and said I had heard E. was leaving and I was now interested in writing the community news column for his newspaper. He gave me an appointment to go in to see him. By then my husband and I were separated – we had a preschooler son ,so there I was pushing his stroller into my interview with the editor.

I got the column and wrote it for six years until the publisher canned the column. I had also been writing community theatre reviews and feature articles. After the column went, I did some freelancing for several other local papers and then move don to the Toronto newspaper and magazine market – and other area magazines. Not all smooth sailing, which is one of my points. Like everything else in life, you get some bumps in the road. Each bump you handle adds to your experience and your confidence, although if you are like me, you still sometimes worry about it.

As for my reading, skits and TV appearances with my books, that’s from experience, too.Teaching the writing workshops helped develop confidence in front of other people.This for someone who in high school nervously took part in a class debate. Reading – I just practice before hand. Ditto the skits. And I have a little secret. I am terrible at memorizing scripts when I am acting with another person. Even on my own, I forget lines. So I improvise and make sure I have a script handy.

And the short story writing? I went back to it about 12 years ago – had some stories published in anthologies and my first Beyond mystery book, Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012) was a collection of 13 stories.

Also to get a little practice in getting your writing out there and in reading,and some feedback, join a writing critique group. I blog about that here.


Sharon A,. Crawford


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Don’t forget the ears – Promoting your book on radio

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

In this graphic online world we sometimes forget there is another older way to promote your book. And it can be done online – live streaming or download or via the website’s Archives. The word is “radio” and although your audience can’t see you they can hear you.

I’ve had that radio interview experience a few times lately for my mystery novel Beyond Blood. None were straightforward. But all were interesting and satisfying.

Probably the closest to “straightforward” was a phone interview for a local (Cobourg, Ontario Canada) radio station. The q and a was normal but it felt a little strange reading an excerpt from Beyond Blood into my wireless phone.

For another radio station I was interviewed in a closet. No brooms or mops but lots of chairs piled up. The location was the Cobourg Public Library and the occasion was Word Northumberland in October 2014. The radio host had a micro digital recorder and among the chairs we did the q and a. Fortunately, I didn’t have to read in the closet. That was done on the small stage in the corner of the publishers and authors exhibit room where authors took their turns reading excerpts from their latest books. And yes, those segments were recorded.
Perhaps the most interesting is the interview I did with Nancy Bullis Tuesday night at 10 p.m. for her Howl show. Love that title. And love the location even more. CIUT 89.5 FM is the long-running University of Toronto radio station. Nancy has been hosting Howl for fifteen and a half years. But they weren’t always at this Hart House location. Until fall 2010 they were in another building closer to a main drag – Bloor Street – and Howl was broadcast live at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Nancy said she always ran into the annual Santa Clause parade just as it started.

But the curious thing is the studio’s actual location – if you can find it. Took me two preliminary visits and a chat with the station manager to find out exactly where on the third floor of historic Hart House it is situated.To make the search more confusing, the first recording studio you see is NOT the correct one. You have to walk along an inner corridor in front of that one until you come to another door which leads you to another corridor with the correct studio at the end.

I had no trouble finding Hart House or its west wing as instructed. Apparently some interviewees can’t do that and land in the east wing. Nancy has chased after lost interviewees before.

But not me. I found it without any problems the night of the interview; my research paid off. When Nancy arrived (and she was early too), she found me chatting with Robert the technician. Nancy and I had a preliminary chat then went inside the studio – the recording part in the front and the actual place where the interview occurs in a small room behind. We sat at a small oval table with huge table-top mics. Nancy checked to see which ones were working and then gave me mic instructions – how far away to put my face from the mic. She adjusted the mic a bit.

I’m usually useless with microphones. I get too close, too far away or worse – have to adjust the mic because someone taller used the mic before me. When I try to adjust these mics, I either can’t move the stand part and/or the mic comes off and I feel like a would-be rock star who can’t sing. That’s me. So I use my loud outside voice.

With the CIUT radio interview, no mic problem I guess. My publisher’s editor listened to the show live while driving home and said the interview was good. I gather he could hear it all right.

So what went on in the interview? Nancy asked questions and I talked about how I got into writing mysteries, about research, some of the characters (the fraternal twin PIs Dana Bowman and Bast Overture) and Dana’s son, David, plus a couple more eccentric characters, Great Aunt Doris and the stuttering Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding, and if my characters appear in both my books.

We also talked about that other Beyond book – the short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012) and the four linked stories connected to Beyond Blood and why the two weren’t published in chronological order.

And where I am reading in the near future. I also managed to get in my website address somewhere in the conversation. Those two are very important.

Speaking of reading – I did read a short excerpt from Beyond Blood. And it didn’t feel like I was reading to a wall or a wireless phone.

Until Wednesday, May 6 you can check out my interview at scroll down to Howl and click on Howl. You need an MP3 player to listen, from what I see there. But remember, I am not technically inclined.

And for those who must have their visual, you can see and hear my interview about Beyond Blood and writing on thatchannel’s Liquid Lunch at



Sharon A. Crawford

Sharon A. Crawford is the author of the Beyond book series. More info at and

Beyond Blood Book cover at the top of this post links to my Amazon author profile. If you buy a copy there, please do a review on



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What Writers Can Learn from Authors’ Readings

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection

I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.

          Anne Rice

The emcee introduced me and I headed up to the podium with my book, Beyond the Tripping Point, opened the page to read, looked at the page. And the lighting was dismal – a dim way overhead light. I struggled to see what I was reading. Apparently I did okay – at least the audience heard me or so I was told.

We writers can learn a few things from attending readings by other authors or in my case from my own reading. Here I learned to always carry a printout in 14 pt. to read from in case the lights fail. To date, since then, the lights have been bright enough to read from the book.

A good writer does not necessarily make a good reader. How often have we attended a reading when the author seemed to be in a race against time (understandable as reading time limits can be as little as four minutes), the reading voice was so low we wished they used a mic or the reading was so wooden we dozed off. The latter may be combined with the author reading way too long.

Those are the negatives but they can teach authors how not to read in public.

On the positive side, I’ve learned how to do a book marketing summary, how to pick the interesting bits to read, but the most rewarding is when interaction occurs between the audience and the reader – when the audience starts asking questions about my stories’ plots and characters and when they talk about their stories.

Some of those questions have been a little disconcerting. For example, the driver trainer who asked about the car that lost its brakes in “No Breaks.” He wanted to know if it was a standard or automatic car. Duh. I hadn’t given it any thought. As the story was triggered by a ride to Ontario’s cottage country I had years ago with a friend, I just used the type of car she had – automatic. And yes, what my friend did – used the parking brakes – worked with an automatic car but even I know that there would be problems with a standard car.

But it was a wake-up call to make sure I do all my research even when the proof seems to be in the pudding.

A favourite with many audiences is how much of your stories come from real life and if you can run into trouble with that. I sometimes use a bit from life as incentive for stories and often will bend the “rules” a little. For example, in one story in Beyond the Tripping Point (and I’m not saying which story) I developed an unfriendly character loosely based on someone in my family (not a close relative) who upset me with comments about what should or shouldn’t go in my memoir. But the character wasn’t really her. You could say she inspired the one character. Ditto the nasty father in “Porcelain Doll” whose only connection to my late father was his penchant for being on time and working for the railway. My dad otherwise was entirely different – more gentle, and he certainly didn’t gamble or verbally abuse his wife and daughter. But many of my characters just show up in my head – like the fraternal twins Dana Bowman and Bast Overture – with a mixture of what I see in the world and what I would like to see. As I’ve told other writers – you do have to be careful what you put in, but also be aware that readers sometimes see themselves or people they know in your stories’ plots and characters even when they are not the character source.

And that’s a good thing because it shows you connect with your readers.

So, besides reading your own writing (published or unpublished) in public, why not go to author readings. You might not only enjoy yourself but learn something, too.

Next week I will be expanding my reading experience as I’m adapting my presentation for a grade 7 group at one of the Toronto Public Library branches. And I’m sure I’ll learn something from this younger audience. I will also be reading for adults and moderating a panel of a couple of crime novel authors. Here’s the info on the latter two.

Tuesday, May 14, 7 p.m. to 8.30 p.m.

Crime Writers of Canada Books ‘n’ Beveragesreading with nine other CWC authors at:

Turner Park Branch of the Hamilton Public Library, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, May 16, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Crime & Mystery Writing Panel

Moderating a panel of mystery novelists on plot and characters especially when police enter the picture. Presented by the Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch and featuring Crime Writers of Canada authors, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


  • Brent Pilkey, author of the Rage novels who, as a police constable with Toronto Police Services, has an inside view of police procedure; and
  • Rick Blechta, whose novels aren’t exactly cozies — all have main characters involved in the music industry and when murder enters their lives, come into contact with the police.

More info

Check out more May readings, etc. at


Sharon A. Crawford


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Workshop your writing – join a writing critique group

Parts of Sharon’s short stories were originally critiqued by members of her East End Writers’ Group

Half my life is an act of revision.

                -John Irving

I run the East End Writers’ Group a writing critique group in east Toronto ( I’ve brought pieces of my stories from my collection Beyond the Tripping Point when they were in rough shape and received excellent suggestions on how and what to fix. In turn I have given some advice to other EEWG members on possible ways to make their manuscript sparkle. (My writing/editing/writing instruction business motto is “We make words sparkle.”)

The fact is we writers view our own writing very subjectively. A phrase or sentence or plot sequence may appear brilliant in our eyes but read out loud (with plenty of light) around the writing circle, the flaws start to show up. As we learned in last week’s post, reading out loud does this, but so much more when there are other ears besides your own hearing it.

I’m not trying to be negative here. One of the goals of writing critique groups needs to be pointing out the strengths and weaknesses in a positive, helpful and friendly manner. Giving suggestions for how you can improve your story is even better. Sometimes the group members agree on what needs fixing; sometimes they don’t. What you are receiving is a number of options to consider. I find that if many people agree on one point, a change is probably necessary. And with other eyes and ears on your manuscript, the feedback is objective. No tunnel vision.

For fiction, some of the areas we look at are:

In General – Is the beginning a reader hook? Is the lead at the beginning or later in the story? Does the story flow? Is there a point or theme to the story? What is the story’s biggest strength?

Plot – Besides grabbing the reader in paragraph one, does the plot contain suspense? Foreshadowing? Have a mixture of narration, dialogue, action and inner thoughts appropriate to the story? Is the story credible? Have some resolution at the end?

Characters – Are characters distinct? Three-dimensional? Believable? Interesting? Do they have character tags? (for example, jiggling keys in a pocket when nervous), Is there a protagonist? Antagonist? How do they interact? Dialogue appropriate to the characters? Further develop the plot and characters?

Point of View (more coming in a later post; I promise) – Too many points of view? Is POV used the best POV for the story? Whose story is it?

Writer’s Style – What is the style? Laid-back? Moody? Simple (as in simply told, not stupid)? Lyrical? Literary? Fast-paced? Light and humorous? ). Are word choices and phrases unique?

Mechanics – spelling, grammar, punctuation (including my two favourites – verb tense mix-up and incorrect dialogue setup).

Now that you have some idea what writing critique groups do (or should do), how do you find a suitable writing group? Consider if you want a group exclusive to fiction or whatever you write or to cover all writing areas. (EEWG is the latter). Consider if you want in-person or online. If the former, consider the geographic distance. Is it free or is there a charge? (EEWG is free but participants bring a gluten-free snack for our networking-snack break. We like to talk and eat.) What type of critique setup do you want? Some groups require pre-submission of manuscripts; some only critique one manuscript per session; some groups have page and time limits for reading. Some meet weekly, bi-weekly, monthly. (EEWG meets one evening monthly except July, August and December. We have a 10-minute reading limit, so length is up to six-pages double-spaced, copies for others and no pre-submissions.)  Check out local library branch websites – many library branches run writing groups or know who does. Check local writing organizations. When you find a group, try it out a few times and if it doesn’t work for you, move on to another group. Can’t find a suitable group? Start one yourself. I did 12 years ago.

If your schedule is tight already you might want to go the online critique route. For example, in Canada, the Canadian Authors Association ( has a Virtual branch for its members. Google “writing critique groups” and see what you get. The beauty here is you can pick one not in your geographic area. But remember, most online groups require give and take – for every critique you get you have to do one (sometimes more) critique of another person’s writing. That’s how we learn – from each other and each other’s writing.

Happy writing and happy critiquing.


Sharon A. Crawford


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Reading your writing out loud

Sharon A. Crawford almost reached her tripping point reading from Beyond the Tripping Point

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.                                                                                            ~P.J. O’Rourke

The stage was set for the public reading. The host introduced me and I grabbed the author copy of my book Beyond the Tripping Point. I walked up to the lectern, took the mic, opened the book, prepared to read…

And could barely see the words.

No, folks I wasn’t going blind. And my glasses were (and are) just fine.

The culprit was not enough light. Only dim ceiling lights. The restaurant had supplied the lectern and mic but did they forget we would need to see to read? I wasn’t the only one who had problems seeing. Usually I enjoying reading in public and am told I do it very well. Not last Thursday evening’s session in the patio room at a Toronto restaurant. I was reading as part of the Toronto branch of the Canadian Authors Association season launch, which outside of the restaurant’s gaff with the lack of light, went very well and brought in record numbers for the branch. I was proud to be reading as part of the CAA program. And yes I did manage to stumble through the short passage I read (and was actually heard as others told me afterward). However, I was so disconcerted by the lighting situation that I forgot to mention the date of my book launch (November 4, 2012). My publisher did, when he went up to the lectern.

My publisher since told me to print out my reading excerpt from my Word copy double-spaced in 14 point. Another author told me to use sans serif font and print all caps. Not sure whether my eyes could deal with the latter, but the large print sans serif sounds good. I might also bring a flashlight or a clip-on book light – if I can find new batteries for my book light and figure out how to insert them. Never again will I complain about bright lights shining in my eyes as I do a public reading.

Fortunately, this reading was a dry run (as my publisher put it) for the book launch.

This reading experience made me think how much reading out loud can help the manuscript in-the-works. Sometimes hearing what you have written puts your story in a different perspective. And your setup for reading-out-loud can bring out different experiences. If you read out loud, record it and play it back, you can hear your words as if coming from another person. If you merely read out loud, you hear the sound from inside your head.

Both methods can give you excellent feedback. You might discover:

Something in the plot sounds jarring and doesn’t work.

One character’s dialogue doesn’t sound right for the character or for the scene.

The point of view you have used may not work. For example if you wrote it from the third person omniscient – see all and hear all – like looking down from a cloud – it might sound cold and distant for what is intended to be an intimate story. (We will be covering the ins and outs of point of view in an upcoming blog. Soon).

You will hear your word errors – words that don’t fit exactly for what you mean, words left out or repeated.

Reading out loud can be an enlightening experience (pun on word intended). You can hear your characters live, breath, and speak. Reading out loud is an excellent tool to help you improve your writing. Playing back what you read works even better.

And if you are going to read in public, be prepared. Bring a large printout of your reading material and a book light or small flashlight. And practice beforehand. That latter (and my experience reading in public) was my saving grace last Thursday evening. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to walk away without reading.


Sharon A. Crawford

Author of Beyond the Tripping Point


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