Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dr. Bird's Advice for Debut Author Readings: QUESTIONS YOU COULD BE ASKED

Questions you'll likely be asked by your audience:
  1. Writers, (unpublished and/or teens) will often ask about how you got published, revision, outlining, rough drafts and whether you need to be "inspired" to write
    • You determine how much to reveal here, obviously. Cite one thing you do that's unique to your writing process, which will solidify your awesomeness and professionalism (this is not a joke -- your audience wants to celebrate you, so let them!). We all love to know that Hemingway wrote while riding bulls, for example. (This is not true, but you get the point.)
  2. What's your definition of success?
  3. Who reads your work first?
  4. How did you get an agent?
  5. How long did it take you to write this book?
  6. Two related examples: Do you write personal stuff about yourself? AND Do you ever worry about offending people, family, friends? 
  7. Are they going to make your book into a movie? / Are you going to get on Oprah's book club? 
  8. How many copies have you sold? / How much money do you make? / Can you just give me a ballpark?
  9. Are you on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Tumblr?
  10. Can you read some of my work? / Why not? / Seriously? / Why are you walking away from me?
  11. What are you working on next? / When does your next book come out? / What is your next book about?
  12. At a talk I did recently, I got asked about my favorite music, favorite authors, authors that inspired my writing, authors I disliked, books I'd recommend (according to genre), if I think writers need to outline, if I ever get writers block and questions 1-11.
Lastly, some advice I've gathered from other writers, my time at an MFA, my own professional career in academic and corporate settings, and from other posts and twitter conversations. 
  1. Define success for yourself in a way that is authentically you. Tayari Jones once told our class that she had a moment of success for her first two novels. She did not cite prizes or reviews or blurbs, but readers who wrote to her or spoke to her. This always, always will stick with me because it was true and it was so much more healthy and under her control as a writer. When people ask you about your notion of success, be honest. If it's money, prizes, reviews then say so. Be authentic. Don't apologize. For me, I'll always consider the fact that Dr. Bird made it to the world as a success. My reviews are successes. But I also have emails from readers that are the successes I'll hold onto forever.
  2. The world is small, especially online, so don't badmouth publishing, booksellers, other authors (no matter how famous and abhorrent they are to you) when you answer questions or tweet. Seems obvious, but I see this all the time. I've seen people trash book reviewers, journals, other authors, editors, agents, their MFA programs. At readings, in interviews, or on social media. I've done it myself. People love to hear gossip, but you only risk your reputation if you give in to questions like "Do you hate Twilight?" by saying "Yes. It's ruined everything." While you might feel good being honest, you only insult Twilight fans in the audience and the people who like you for saying that are likely to go online and say "Evan Roskos said he hated Twilight!" Will anyone online care what I say about a massively successful author/series? Probably not. But you never know what other authors think of you, what they might have a chance to do for you, or what they might refuse to do for you because of that one tweet or interview response.