Finding Literature

By now you should have a sense of what good performance literature looks and sounds like. You might have read a story recently that will work, but students typically need to read more literature with the discriminating eye you developed in the last section on Identifying Good Literature. It’s time to start start hunting for the special literary gem(s) that will appeal to you and the judges, and there are plenty of places to look.

The Internet offers a great abundance of easily accessible options for finding literature.  Beyond the few links you can click on below, there are copious quantities of quality online literature. Online Poetry Magazines and Literary Magazines.

Local Publications, such as school journals, can be a place to find unique, relevant and unheard literature.

Popular publications also provide an increasing abundance of literature to choose from.

  • PROSE – There are a good deal of anthologies out there that will have the occasional performance gem, such as Push Cart Prize, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Best American Short Stories, or The Best American Short Plays. Because memoirs are written in the first person and almost always carry that realism factor, they can sometimes make for a stunning prose. These lives are sometimes interesting and sometimes boring; in either case you have a chance of creating 9-minutes of entertainment.
  • DRAMA – Popular places to purchase drama include Samuel French, Dramatists, Stage Plays, and Playscripts. There are also a few free sites dedicated to drama. Movies too can be a source for dramatic material, but beware of choosing material that will have you filling the shoes of Sean Penn or Julia Roberts. Better to walk in the faded shadow of a B-movie actor OR, if you plan to use a popular movie, completely and creatively remake the characters and plot of the literature.

A note on the added challenges of POETRY & PROGRAM interpretation: A Student’s Poetry event does not need to be a program (a collection of poems), but it often is because it is difficult to find fresh poetry long enough to satisfy the minimum time expectation (about 8 minutes). Consequently, the challenges for Poetry are the same as they are for Program Oral Interpreation: to find enough material that 1) fits with the theme/argument of the introduction and 2) maintains at least 1-2 narrative thread(s).

Both of these challenges are in fact more difficult in Poetry because 1) you’re limited to the genre of poetry and 2) poetry can be abstract and difficult for the audience to process and follow.  This is why it is important to find at least one poem that that is conversational, vivid, and clearly organized. Some abstract poems can season and compliment these easier to process, more narrative-like poems.

Supplementary material for a POI may also be found online in the form of blogs, youtube videoes, online forums, podcasts, news transcripts, craigslist rants, or humor sites, such as, The Onion or McSweeney’s.

Now that you know where to look for literature, learn how to abridge longer works for 10 minute performances.