When my first novel DAYS OF THE ENDLESS CORVETTE (Still only $14.95 and a swell gift for all occasions) came out, and I realized I would have the opportunity to do public readings, I made up my mind. I wouldn't do readings. Instead, I decided to memorize a passage and recite it, perform it if you will.
I don't wear a costume or anything, I don't act out the parts or use puppets: I just recite the passage I would have read. With feeling.
There are several reasons to do this, but I'll start with the high-falutin' theoretical one. A public reading is a different medium than a book in print, and it requires a different approach. Anyone who attends a reading is perfectly capable of reading already, and the sight of an author standing at a podium reading aloud isn't all that exciting. That said, there are some who read from their works - Khadijah Queen springs to mind - who make a reading an enthralling experience. Others, who shall go nameless here, are a good deal less than thrilling. Reciting your work, especially if you've practiced it and considered your pauses, the moments you will raise and lower your voice, is a lot more fun for both audience and author. As an author, it gives you the wonderful experience of knowing how people respond to your work in the moment - provided you're looking at your listeners, and not at a page.
It's not as hard memorizing a passage as you might think. After working and reworking a novel, there are some passages I have fair to memorized before the thing even reaches a publisher.
I'm attaching a video recorded by my friend Mike Burr of a reading I did at the Wren's Nest in Atlanta, Georgia. It was at night and outside, and the lighting makes my head like a radioactive onion, but still you may get the idea. The first part of my reading, which involved a flip chart as a visual aid, unreadable on film, has been deleted.