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Things I Learned at The Inspired Mic

The community I call home (Flagler Beach, Florida – even though I technically live next door in Palm Coast) has a fantastic creative element.

Authors and artists of all types live here, and in the past couple of years have gravitated to each other and are really starting to make their presence known.

I’m writing to tell you about one of the events that is bringing attention to some great local talent and also to tell you of some very valuable lessons I’ve learned at said event.

programIt’s called The Inspired Mic and it’s basically an open mic night for authors, poets and anybody else who has something to share (there have been magicians, mentalists and musicians as well).

Each presenter gets five minutes of mic-time to share their material.

The event takes place on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at a fantastic little eatery called The BeachHouse Beanery on scenic A1A in Flagler Beach. The stage is a stone’s throw from the ocean – so there are much worse places to spend a Tuesday evening.

Inspired Mic began in May (2013) and drew a crowd of about 20 people (including readers). Not a very auspicious opening, but after only four months, the most recent performance had 65 people in attendance and that number would have been higher if not for the limited capacity of the venue.

I didn’t go to the first night, but when I bumped into event organizer Michael Ray King in town he asked me if I’d be interested in reading the following month.

To be honest, I wasn’t.

In the first place, I don’t dig the spotlight. I much prefer being a behind the scenes sort of guy. Second…I didn’t think it was the proper venue for authors.

However, Michael is a good guy, and pretty persuasive, so I agreed to go. My friend Becky Pourchot read at the first one and enjoyed it, which told me there must be something good about it, so I dragged Armand Rosamilia away from Special Gal for a night and we went.

Unfinished Business had just been released so I read the opening chapter.TB at Inpsired Mic

To quote Gloria Gaynor, “at first I was afraid, I was petrified” at the thought of reading in front of people, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be (nothing ever really is). The response from the audience was not only flattering, it was reassuring. I also had a great time listening to the other presenters.

I can’t speak for other authors, but I often wonder if my books are as enjoyable to others as I hope they are. According to the response on that first night, I don’t worry about it as much anymore.

Now I’m a “regular” in the lineup and I look forward to attending and reading each month.

So what has The Inspired Mic taught me?

Several things.

First; it taught me that stage fright need not be paralyzing. Sure, it’s a bit intimidating to read your words to a bunch of strangers, but, as I said above, it’s not nearly as bad as you think it’s going to be.

stage fright

Second; hanging out with 50 or 60 creative people is a blast. My decision to move to this part of the world looks more and more brilliant every day!

I also learned two other things that are really important for all authors and writers.

The first two times I read at the event, I picked my material well in advance and edited it down to fit the 5-minute time limit and practiced reading it aloud several times.editing

This editing process gave me a great insight as to which words and sentences were really important and which ones were just there to fill space on the page.

Naturally, I wanted the audience to fully understand what was happening, but I had to make sure I could read it in 5 minutes (Michael is quick with the hook!). Therefore, every word that wasn’t absolutely necessary was chopped out. I was amazed at how much I was able to cut without taking away from the story.

That was important lesson #1 – if it isn’t necessary, cut it out.

Lesson #2 came at the most recent event. I didn’t prepare at all. I didn’t select any material ahead of time, didn’t rehearse and didn’t edit.

What I did was to hand 3 of my novels (Water Hazard, Pump It Up and Backseat to Justice) to a woman in the audience whom I had never met before. I asked her to pick one, but I didn’t tell her why. Once she made her selection (Pump It Up) I then asked her to pick a page. She opened the book to chapter 24 and I read from there until my time was up.

I hadn’t read this material since before it was published (August 2012) so it was much less familiar to me than it had been back then. I was disappointed to realize, as I read it aloud, that there were a couple of spots where I stumbled over the words because things were not as clear as they could have been.

Mary Dreds

Mary Dreds reading from her semi-autobiographical work at The Inspired Mic.

Important lesson #2; As you write (especially dialogue) it’s always a good idea to read your work aloud and see how it flows. You’ll be amazed at how a few simple tweaks can really clear things up for the person who is reading it “cold”.

All in all, The Inspired Mic has been very good for me (Hell, I’ve even sold a few books from it). One of Michael Ray King’s reasons for starting it was (and I’m paraphrasing) writers suck at putting themselves out there. Generally speaking we prefer the safety and anonymity of our own little made-up worlds. At some point, however, we need to put in some face time in order to sell our work, and what better practice than reading it to 50 or 60 people?

Summing up…Flagler Beach – fantastic place to live…The Inpsired Mic – great event for discovering some awesome local talent…reading aloud – best editing method you’ll find.

As always – thank you for reading

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