The good news is that I did my first booktalk today. I did it on two books, Artemis Fowl and Mister Monday, presenting them to my YA Literature class. It took six or seven minutes, and went very well, which is good considering that I rehearsed it for literally hours over the past three days, and now my housemates probably think I not only talk to myself, but do so very repetitively, and about fairies.
As I say, the presentation went splendidly. Two classmates told me afterwards that they "don't usually read fantasy" but thought they might pick these up based on my booktalk. This is heartening, especially considering that my ideal booktalk audience would contain some people who actually do read fantasy, and are perhaps even the ages for which these books were, strictly speaking, written.
While I don't know anything about what the audience might be, I may have a chance to do a booktalk at the open house of the new library in my hometown. (You know, the one that's AMAZING.) I'll have to pick out a set of books, maybe eight or so, of which the library has at least one copy. (Artemis Fowl stays, and I might be able to convince them to get a copy or two of Mister Monday - or donate one myself.) Since booktalking is a skill I'd love to practice, I'm thrilled about this opportunity.
Speaking of practice, I learned two important things from my ridiculous amount of rehearsal for this booktalk:
1. Practice from different angles. I started out giving my booktalk to a mirror, but then when I tried it without the mirror, I realized I'd been taking visual cues from my own reflection, if that makes any sense. I'd also gotten used to fixing my eyes on what is possibly the least likely thing for me to see during the real presentation, i.e. me. Similarly, when I practiced the presentation while pacing in my room, I found myself cuing off my footsteps. Doing different kinds of practice kept any of these from becoming crutches I couldn't work without.
2. You know how they always tell you that if you mess up during a performance, you should just keep going? This is good advice, but it can be hard given that generally, if you're like me, you don't do this during rehearsal. If I mess up while practicing, I tend to start the line over. This is fine when you're still in the memorization stage, but once you know the lines, it can be helpful to work on delivery the way you'll actually do it. This includes actually practicing the ability to gloss over any little slips.
Even though today's presentation was a success, I hope to get to a point of a little more spontaneity. Apparently my booktalk today came off as smooth and natural - at least, according to a friend in the class - but I definitely had a script in my head. I knew how to deal with little slips, but I felt like a bit of a recording. Funnily enough, the words were a lot like my original, spontaneous descriptions of the books, just a little more eloquent and polished - and then practiced like crazy to keep them that way, and to make sure that I didn't freeze in front of the class. I wouldn't want to try a totally off-the-cuff booktalk, because it would likely include, "Oops, and I forgot to tell you . . ." and "Oh yeah, but before that . . ." Well, I'll keep working.
And the unfortunate news. Apparently, Diana Wynne Jones has cancer. She's doing chemo and radiotherapy. Join me in willing good health to my favorite author in the world.