I’m a rational, practical adult. I read novels quietly to myself. Occasionally, I may snort or laugh out loud at a funny, but for the most part, it’s a silent, respectable endeavor.
Writing my own book, however, has driven a whole new behavior: reading aloud. It started with my cats. I mean, I had to road test my manuscript rewrites on someone, right? They seemed to like it. Lord knows, they lined up on my writing desk like a trio of Russian nesting dolls blankly staring at me while I ferociously typed away on the keyboard.
Since Inspector Dewey features them (my roommates of almost five years), I found myself creating and honing their individual kitty voices—inflections and intonations I imagined they’d use. Lily seemed to like it. By Dewey’s instant exit, I‘m pretty sure he thought it was creepy. But it worked for me. It helped me bring the characters to life on the page. When I read the story aloud, it helped me to identify poor word choices, rough spots in cadence and page turns, and out-of-character quotations.
Mostly though, it was a blast. I got to craving reading the book aloud because it was so silly-fun. When I had the chance to read an early review copy at a preschool, I jumped at the opportunity. They were so polite—I felt a little shy. And Lily, who came along with me, was being such a good girl, too. I thought to myself, Uh-oh, who’s gonna get silly with me?
I started reading, doing my best to maintain my composure, playing the “cool guy” called for in the mood of the moment. But then, it just happened … I couldn’t help it … I slipped into Lily’s sassy, sweet high-pitched song: “Weeeeee, what fun! We’re gonna catch a bad guy!” Giggle. Wriggle. Squeal! I saw the teacher’s eyes get slightly larger and a tiny curl formed upward at the corners of her mouth. I think I surprised her—and the kids, too. Did they not know I could be such a goofus? Did they not want me to? I just kept going and doing what felt natural. And, yes—that was full-on kitty performances.
I imagine I’ll be doing more readings—inside and outside of the home. And I look forward to listening and learning from the pros: the authors and teachers and parents who come before me with years of read-aloud experience. For now, I’m just delighted to have plenty of picture books and a peanut gallery to practice on.