Inside the Writing Academy

Fear of Public Author Readings

The past two weeks at the GCLS Writing Academy have been all about class readings. After our excellent class with Melissa Brayden, each student in the WA have had an opportunity to give their own five minute reading. For some, this was their first time doing a public reading.

It can be easy to get anxious when doing a reading for the first time, even in a safe space when you’re on Zoom and surrounded by your classmates who:

A. Are as nervous as you, and:

B. Really want to see you succeed.

But everyone did really well. The readings were interesting and engaging. It was clear everyone had practiced. And no one went over the time limit!

If you’re having anxiety about giving an author reading, and you are not lucky enough to take a workshop with Melissa Brayden to learn how to give the best one of your life, we do have some tips.

  1. Be prepared. We can’t stress enough how important it is to practice. The more you practice, the more of your work you’ll have memorized. You will also feel less stressed if you know you’re prepared.
  2. Time yourself. One of the worst things that can possibly happen is to have the moderator buzz you because you’ve gone over. The other worst thing is having a moderator who is too scared to interrupt and you end up reading for three or four minutes longer than everyone else while the audience shifts in their seats and wonders when you’re going to end.
  3. Read slower than you think you should. Anxious people tend to read quickly which makes them more nervous. Slow down, take a few breathes, and force yourself to go slowly.
  4. Consider preparing two potential reads. If you end up with an audience that seems to be in boisterous good spirits, you can quickly switch to the funny scene instead of the traumatic scene you were going to read.
  5. Go light on the explaining. If you spend two minutes explaining your story, you’re probably going to lose your audience before you start. I try to pick scenes that need no explanation so I can spend five seconds thanking the person who introduced me, say, “I’ll be reading from my book, “The World’s Greatest Title” and then just launch into the reading.
  6. Last, as I said in the intro, just know that everyone is there to see you succeed. No one comes to an author reading hoping that the author will crash and burn.

And if you still need help, consider joining the GCLS Writing Academy, where you will not only get instruction in craft of writing elements, but also in how to showcase them when you do your readings.


The GCLS Writing Academy is a nine-month program for those interested in writing a novel. During your time with us, you will learn the critical components of quality writing. The Writing Academy will take you through all aspects of writing and publishing a novel. Whether you are a novice who has never published anything or someone with a full body of work waiting to be published, this program will help you hone your skills. 

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