Peter John McLean
HOW TO BEHAVE AT A READING (AS EITHER PARTICIPANT OR AUDIENCE MEMBER) a guest post by Sam Pink (Writing)
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been to a reading–as either participant or audience member. You might have enjoyed the reading. You might not have. But one thing is certain, you have witnessed many behaviors not suitable for public interaction. And if you haven’t noticed, you’re part of the problem. Which means you suck just as much as a sucky reading. Things need to change for both sides. Because if what you do to express yourself, like if that thing sucks to you and other people, that really sucks you know? I mean, fuck.
If you’re a reader, be proud to read your shit. Even if not feeling any pride is what you write about, even if being a depressed shithead is your thing, just fucking read. You can be yourself. It’s ok. Why act like anyone else? If doing a reading is your way to network or exercise petty self-satisfaction, you suck. Don’t get up and read. You suck.
Oh but like, if ‘yourself’ is a person who suddenly reads with a ‘mystic poet’ inflection, then don’t be yourself. That sucks too. It makes you look like you know more about your shit than anybody else, like a priest or magician. And for that, you suck. You’re not a priest or a magician, you’re an entertainer. Is that how you read to yourself when you’re alone? Do you read other peoples’ emails and text messages that way? Because if you do, you suck. Don’t do that either.
Don’t tell any stories before you read. That sucks and nobody cares and you’re not good at just telling a story, that’s why you write them down. Assume nobody cares about your life at all outside of what you’re about to read. Because they don’t. They probably won’t even give you a free beer from their shitty 30 pack.*
Don’t be nervous. What is there to be nervous about? Look into the audience of maybe 50 people. Who gives a shit. For once, you have a group of people paying attention to you for whatever you want to say, rather than billions of people constantly watching you do whatever you’re doing. Also, if you’re nervous, don’t talk about it in a precious bogus way, just let it flow. Otherwise people will think you might suck.
You don’t have to do your ‘thing’ when not reading. Like when just asskissing and talking to other writers, you don’t have to keep doing the fake personality thing. It really doesn’t matter how you act. So don’t act. That sucks for people to have to witness.
If you’re in the audience, don’t treat the reader like some precious icon, you can yell shit about how you feel. Or even just like ‘yeah!’ or ‘hm!’ That shit is good. Try yelling, ‘I like that’ at a reading. It’s really something, I tell ya. It’s just people trying to enjoy themselves or feel something.
Don’t get offended by anything. You’re at a ‘creative writing’ reading. If there is anything that can’t be said at such a thing then what the fuck. If you decide not to like someone based on their writing, that’s cool; don’t give him or her your money. There are probably 10,000 other reasons you would hate them too. It’s cool, but you don’t have to make it about an individual on a petty personal level. It makes you look weak and irrelevant and you probably are. Which sucks for everybody involved.
*If you brought a 30 case of shitty 12 dollar beer, then you have to know that shit is gone in a half hour tops. It’s not yours anymore man. Don’t be a dick. And don’t make a reader pay for a can of your pretentiously shitty beer, it makes you look bad. Just give them out while quickly getting in your 4-8. Be generous. Same thing with weed, chips, etc.
Don’t introduce yourself to anyone, regardless of whether you’re reading or not. Part of you dies each time an introduction happens. DO NOT be taken with. Stay true, warrior.
If you’re the person introducing the readers, maybe like, try. Don’t just accept it for egocentric reasons and then talk about how much you suck at introducing shit, like before during and after. Jesus. That sucks.
Develop a higher sense of decency with the bathroom. Even if you’re in line, why not scan the line and see if anyone looks like they need the bathroom more, eh? We’re all in this together you sucky shitheads.
If you’re at a reading I’m doing, just give me ten dollars for no reason.
If you’re reading at a bar, or at a reading at a bar, tip the bartender a lot.
If you read, and have books to sell, don’t refer to each book by the title as what you have available, but instead, say that you have books to sell, if that. Nobody obsesses over your books like you do, so don’t name all of them in some way like you’re an amazon customer recommendation algorithm. That sucks. Just assume that if you read and no one talks to you afterward, they don’t want any books.
If you buy books, pay nicely. Acknowledge that this person has brought you something in the way of entertainment and they probably don’t get paid much. Quit talking shit about how money goes around when you can give to someone you appreciate. Same thing with the fucking beers you fucking hypocritical junior socialist political know it all! UGGHHHH.
It’s obvious when you’re reading something you don’t like because you look bored and upset to be there. And that sucks. Why make people gather into an audience form then stand in front of them without enjoying yourself or helping them enjoy you. Fuck, that sucks.
Don’t ask more than once if people can hear you before you start reading. It’s a fucking hundred person capacity bar or book store. We can fucking hear you.
You don’t have to make eye contact with the audience if you don’t want. Seems obvious but you’d be surprised.
If you’re the person who, after it’s all done, makes the suggestion everyone goes somewhere but then no one knows where, just go to the closest bar or apartment. That way less time is lost for networking and general bullshit.
Don’t ever ask anyone how they thought you did.
If you thought someone did well, tell them.
If the audience claps for you at all, it’s your duty to yell, ‘stop!’ and get them to stop. No matter what.
If you have like, an assistant or publisher or whoever who basically parents you around the reading, then fuck you.
If you attend a reading at someone’s house/apt. then bring a small dish like dip or soup or whatever.
Don’t try to film everything, just try to be there.
Don’t be on your phone at any point as reader or audience member. It’s weird you think you have to be standing there, you can just go anywhere you want. You can walk somewhere peaceful, and without a person trying to get your attention on stage, and look at your phone for hours.
If you’re ‘awkward’ or whatever, just let that be shown, it sucks when someone is over-selling that. Really boils my onions when people do that. Sucks.
Bring dip, think I already said that.
At the end of any reading, EVERYONE HELP WITH CHAIRS AND SHIT! DON’T WALK AWAY! HELP PICK UP THE FUCKING PLACE!