Murder One Festival - Pitching from the pulpit 02/11/19
Posted by Robert Craven on Sun, 03 Nov 2019
Situated along the River Liffey, past the Temple Bar area of Dublin stands Smock Alley Theatre. Founded in 1662 as a Theatre Royal (the only one ever built outside of London) under Charles II, it has assumed many guises including a reconsecrated Church in the Victorian era. Falling into ruin after the 1916 rising and independence from England it was recently restored to its full glory including an impressive theatre space in 2012. For the next three days its the venue for The Murder One Festival 2019 (#MurderOneFest) November 1-3.
Under the beautifully restored ceiling on the second floor in the aptly named Banqueting Hall that a podium with a microphone stands. Speaker's Corner will provide an invited group of authors the opportunity to read from their works and maybe generate a few sales courtesy of The Gutter Bookshop who have kindly allowed some valuable shelf space. The authors arrive for the morning stint, between 10am - 3pm, we are allowed 15 minute slots. I'm on at 10:30am, but as in all events like this, times are fluid. Facing the backdrop and under the lighting rig, the podium reminds me of the pulpit, the collective memory we carry from birth of rites, incantations, parables, lessons and stories.
From this wooden podium we are going to sell visions to the audience.
I have six copies of The Road of a Thousand Tigers, because I think at best, I'll sell 2 and don't believe in hauling around boxes of paperbacks. I think simply: Aim for one sale, pitch for the lot; might break even. The room is stone, wooden floors, high ceiling, and long wooden pews - the sound is going to riochet around as well as conversations in the lobby below and the clatter and clack of the coffee machine situtaed on the far side of the hall. I am going to have to focus. Focus on the words. The air is dry and we are going to be reading under spotlights, so having learnt from experience I have a few tips to offer:
1. Blow your nose a few times before you read - an old Actor's tip, Mucus is loosened under light and heat and runs (a lot). It will catch in the throat an cause a reflex constriction. Give your nose a good blow in the toilets so you aren't gagging and scrambling for water.
2. Water not coffee on the stand (or near your feet). I always request a small cup of water. Not a bottle, it catches the light and distracts the audience. It makes a clackilly sound that the microphone loves to send off like a thunderstorm from the podium.
3. Loose comfortable clothing. In venues such as this (stone / wood / glass) temperatures swing wildly, heavy jackets will make you sweat buckets. Too little will make you uncomfortable and you will rush your reading. I always wear a shirt and have a scarf (not woollen) around it. Keeps the arms free to turn the pages. Nothing sparkly - under lights causes a distratcion.
4. Toilet - Bill Wyman, Rolling Stones bassist was once asked for advice by another muscian -
"Go for a pee before going on stage" he was told. Nothing like nerves to have you dashing every 5 minutes to the loo.
5. Speak low, speak slow - think of John Wayne - and don't be afraid to act out your dialogue - you'll be surprised at the audience reaction.
It seems all the reading pass in the blink of an eye and before I know it I am up. I have written my introduction out, its easy in front of an audience (be it one old lady or a hundred paying guests) to lose your train of thought as the adrenalin kicks in. So I have a one minute intro mentioning the novel's genre, its strengths and the 'PITCH'. Then the chapters. They are heavily edited by me (or tailored if you will) - I spent a fortnight re-reading and pencilling out text trying to get the chapters as stand-alone but in context.
Anthony Hopkins, the legendary actor one observed that he lived and breathed a script. It went everywhere with him, he would write, doodle and correct in the margins until it became almost a picture in his head. This is how I see the reading. You are putting words into the mind of the audience and miking them picture it. You have to fashion the words into images.
That is what we do as writers, we sell our stories as pictures in the audience's mind.
we are illusionists after all, pitching from the pulpit.
I get a round of applause and grab a coffee. Going back to listen to my fellow authors, I find much to my relief, I have sold 4 copies.
Planned to sell one, sold four and checking Amazon this morning, have shifted a few Kindles too.