5 Things I Learned from Attending Authors Readings
by Ofelia Montelongo
As an always-learning aspiring author, I love to hear how other authors did it: How did they overcome the fears and trespass the world of writing and publishing? In my attempt to learn and support my fellow writers, I go as often as I can to readings and book signings.
During the past few months, I have had the opportunity to attend to different signings and readings from remarkable authors such as Isabel Allende, Yann Martel, A.S. King, Lindy West, Amy Silverman, Matthew Pearl, Sherman Alexie, Zadie Smith, and Jason Segel (yes, Marshall from How I Met Your Mother). Most of the time, they read, they share something funny, leave room for Q&A, and then everyone lines up for the book signing. However, from these events, I have learned important lessons worth sharing.
- Be creative with your questions – Be prepared by learning and researching the author beforehand. If you are already a fan and familiar with his/her work, make sure you craft a question that pushes them come up with a creative answer. Authors probably hear these questions all the time:* What did you do to be this successful?
* What would you recommend to an aspiring author?
* How did you get published?You could probably see the authors roll their eyes internally if you looked at them closely, and yet they always end up answering nicely. Most of these are questions they have already answered in other Q&A’s or interviews; they may even have published them on their websites. Seriously, don’t ask these questions. Be more creative in the way you interact.
- Interact with the author at the end – A piece of advice that was given to me and which I find really useful is to stay until the end of the reading if you are going to ask a lot of questions. It is easier to enable a conversation with a writer when there is not a long line waiting to meet the author and have their books signed. Authors tend to be more relaxed when they don’t see a bunch of other people eager to meet them.
- Write the book you’d like to read – Sometimes the best book is the one that inspire us to be our best, to feel all the feelings, a book we would have liked to read when we were kids or teenagers. Well, the good news is that we could write that book! Don’t be afraid to tell the stories you think people can learn from.
- Avoid writing about trendy topics – As writers and aspiring authors, sometimes we think the smartest thing is write stories about trending topics, such as vampires, zombies, teenagers in an apocalyptic world, etc. However, if we write about those topics, by the time we finish, edit, and publish the book, the trend may be running its course. Write about what you know and want, and who knows? Perhaps your book will become a new trend. It’s all about being there at the right time.
- Imitate other writers until you find your own voice – For beginning writers, it sometimes is difficult to find what works best. The best way to find your own voice is to read and to learn from the masters. A very useful technique I learned last semester is to take a paragraph from your favorite book and try to write your own paragraph following that format. That is a great way to find out what works best for you. Once you find your genre or your style, stay true to your own voice.
There are no doubt many other lessons I have learned, and that I will keep learning, from these events. The most important thing is to attend and support the writer community and learn as much as possible.
Ofelia Montelongo is an aspiring published author. She is writing her first novel, Pilgrims or Something Like That. Originally from Mexico, she has a Bachelor’s in accounting and finance and an MBA. She is currently working on her Bachelor’s in English and Creative Writing. Ofelia is also a freelance photographer and has her own business in Scottsdale (Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale). Read more at Writing My First Novel. eMail Ofellia here or “like” her on Facebook.