Raise the Wiffle Ball Bat and Grab the Feed Bag
By Sherri Williams, Bluegrass Writers Studio
There are many ways to read a piece of work out loud; fearfully, confidently, and masterfully. Boy, that’s a lot of ully’s. The very first moment that I walked up in front of my classmates to read off of a paper, it was a good thing I didn’t pass out. No matter how well I did—or how badly—I considered it a triumph to still be standing, palms sweaty, when I read the last sentence and scurried to my desk. It took a long time before I could speak clearly, project my voice, and actually make eye contact with people, but still I bolted to my desk when I had finished reading. I have improved; I’m less fearful and more confident reading in front of people than I used to be, but nothing like our recent guest Jeff Parker, author of Where Bears Roam the Streets and Ovenman.
Perhaps Jeff possesses fearfulness, confidence, and masterfulness, but in appearance it is only the latter two. He brings his audience together by adjusting his voice at the right moments - when the ‘rooster of your later years’ leans drunkenly against the house enjoying cherries, or when, with wiffle ball bat in hand, he faces the General. Those images explode off of the page of his stories and through his voice. It takes hold of us and then we are no longer just the readers, we are sitting in a room with friends and enjoying a story for all that it is worth.
Everyone in the audience momentarily forgot that they were being read to; we were lost in this oral story without the interaction of their eyes on the page, and so the end leaves us all thinking; how did he do that? How did he make us laugh at just the right moments? How did he make us face moments with humor that were not at all funny for his character? Practice is definitely a part of it. Personality is surely a part of it. But it’s likely that one can learn from him and grow to speak just in this way.
First, as he told us, "write your first draft in water." Second, polish it up with that beautiful ink that curls and flows onto the page. Make the written word the best that it can be for your individual story. Then, you get out there. As writers we know that we only get better if we read, read, read, and write, write, write. In speaking, it’s just the same. You treat it as a performance. The more you listen to others and learn, the more you do it yourself, the better you will be. Jeff Parker astonished us with his ability to project a story into our minds, and by doing that he’s left an impression on all of us.
Thanks Jeff, from all of us at Bluegrass Writers Studio.
Published on January 29, 2015