Interview with an Author: Joanne Guidoccio on Open Mic Readings

Joanne Guidoccio

Joanne Guidoccio

In 2008, Joanne took advantage of early retirement and launched a writing career. Her articles and book reviews have been published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Joanne’s most recent novel is The Coming of Arabella (September 2015, Soul Mate Publishing). Book 2 in The Mediterranean Trilogy, Joanne sums it up as follows: “On the day of her engagement party, an ex-mermaid’s life is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of another mermaid—a sister she has never known.”

Joanne also writes mystery. The first in the Gilda Greco series is A Season for Killing Blondes. Here’s a teaser: Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.

microphoneJudy: You’re visiting today to talk about Open Mic readings. As someone semi-terrified of public speaking, I’m fascinated to hear your approach on this.

Joanne: Selecting the right excerpt for a reading or Open Mic session can be a daunting task. What looks good on paper does not necessarily work in a live situation.

Here are some tips:

  • Include a short introduction to the excerpt. At longer readings, you can discuss your writing journey and expand on the back-story. Open Mic sessions are more casual with the organizer simply stating the presenter’s name. If this is the case, share a few details about the manuscript.
  • Start at the beginning. Knowing that most agents do not read beyond the first few pages, you have probably polished those pages until they gleam. However, if the first chapter is devoted to setting the scene or introducing back story, select another excerpt.
  • The excerpt does not have to be cut word-for-word from the manuscript. Remove sections that can only be understood in the context of previous chapters. Descriptions can be wonderful when read at leisure but deadly if they stretch out the action and frustrate or bore the listeners.
  • Time yourself and bring only those pages you can read in the allotted period. Five minutes may seem like a long time to stand in front of a sea of faces, but it passes very quickly, and if presenters are not careful, they can lose themselves in their own work and overstay their welcome.
  • End on the right note. While you don’t need a “happily ever after” ending, there must be some resolution or hint of a resolution. Don’t frustrate the audience and leave them hanging.
  • Experiment with swagger. We’ve all sat through readings where authors kept their noses in their novels and never looked up once. Not everyone can inspire and motivate like Tony Robbins, but authors should look up at intervals and use vocal variety and appropriate gestures whenever possible.

Most important of all, relax and use the reading or Open Mic session to connect with the audience and introduce those wonderful characters you have lovingly created and nurtured.

Judy: What’s the best writing advice you have ever read or been given?

Joanne: “It’s okay to fall out of love with your manuscript.” I received this advice from Brian Henry, a creative writing instructor at Ryerson University. He recommended putting manuscripts aside before starting the editing process. He didn’t specify a timeline but stressed that we can’t improve our work until we fall out of love with it.

Judy: What advice and/or resources would you recommend for aspiring writers?

Joanne: Experiment with different genres while discovering your own unique voice. Sign up for a creative writing course that exposes you to short stories, children’s and adult writing, creative nonfiction and poetry. Search until you find a warm, supportive environment where your words can flow freely. And, most important of all, enjoy the journey.

Judy: Do you have a favorite author or series? A favorite genre?

Joanne: I have eclectic tastes and enjoy reading contemporary women’s fiction, cozy mysteries, thrillers, historical fiction, and memoirs. While the storylines vary, reinvention is a common theme. Also, the protagonists are usually boomer women. In short, I enjoy reading and writing boomer lit.

Judy: What are you currently reading?

Joanne: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter.

Judy: What’s next for Joanne?

Joanne: I’m working on Too Many Women in the Room, Book 2 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series and The Making of a Mermaid Psychic, Book 3 of the Mediterranean Trilogy.

Find Joanne on her website, Amazon,  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Goodreads.

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12 responses to “Interview with an Author: Joanne Guidoccio on Open Mic Readings

  1. Hi Beth, Like you, I’ve sat through several “painful” readings where I felt for the author’s discomfort. Practice definitely helps. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks so much for sharing Beth!

  3. What fantastic tips. I’ve sat through some of those authors who overstayed their welcome and also those who never looked up, changed the inflection of their voice, or engaged the audience. I’ve read at a couple of open mics and at readings. Once you get started, the rest usually flows but your advice is wonderful. Sharing!

  4. Hi Andi, Good to see you here. Hope that all is well with your health. 🙂

  5. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Andi, once those shakes starts, it’s hard to stop them! Thanks for commenting.

  6. I used to shake like hell when public speaking. Strangely enough, the heart meds I’m on have stopped it. But your tips are great–and I don’t wish a heart condition on anyone!LOL

  7. Hi Judy, I’m glad to hear you had a successful reading. Onward! 🙂

  8. Hi Madeline, It’s one thing to do a reading or signing surrounded by friends. Open mic readings attract larger crowds with varied tastes. But I have found the audiences very supportive, especially of new authors. Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

  9. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Hi Madeline, I think most people are nervous, actually. I envy folks that are so at ease. But I’ve done a couple talks now — only a couple of minutes each time — but it is getting easier (though it is not easy). My post next week will follow up on this theme. I’m so grateful to Joanne for her tips on this topic.

  10. I have been actively avoiding the open mic options around here, but the day [evening] is getting closer. Glad I’m not alone in my trepidation.

  11. Judy Penz Sheluk

    My pleasure. I applied your tips and had a successful 2-minute reading at the Ontario Library Association Superconference last week!

  12. Thanks for hosting me, Judy 🙂