Tips for Readers


Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.

Brené Brown

So you’ve signed up to read at Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids. Congratulations and thank you! Here are a few tips to help make the most out of your GRTTWaK experience. They’re all important, so please read them all, and read them carefully.

Show up early

It’s very important that you show up  before we open the doors for general admission. At most events, we ask readers to arrive no later than 7pm for evening shows, and 2:30pm for matinees. When you arrive, check in with Dan or Jenna so we know you made it. We kindly ask that your friends/family/partners wait until general admission doors open (usually at 7:30pm for evening shows, 3:00pm for matinees).

Where will I sit?

You’ll spend 95% of the show sitting in the audience, enjoying the event along with everyone else. Because you’ll arrive early, you get first dibs on whichever seats you want. You can save seats for any friends or family you’d like to sit with, too.

The three rules

There are the rules that govern what you can read at GRTTWaK:

  1. You have to be the one who wrote it, as a kid
  2. You have to be the one who reads it, as a grownup
  3. It must be short (no more than 5 minutes)

What does “kid” mean?

That’s open to interpretation, and we don’t have a hard-and-fast age range. Over the years, we’ve heard little kid writing, college/university-age writing, and everything in between.

Temporal distance matters. Ideally, you should be a decade removed from the material you read. At the very least, you should be in a different stage of life than when you wrote your thing.

What should I read?

So long as it fits the 3 criteria listed above, you can read pretty much anything. Material that makes you cringe is usually a good place to start. Journals, diary entries, short stories, and poems are always popular. We also love less-common formats (screenplays, lists, song lyrics).

Your reading needn’t be funny. Some of our most memorable readings have been bittersweet, sad, or difficult to share. Stuff that was once secret usually elicits the biggest reactions, even though it can be the scariest material to read aloud. Cuss words are A-OK.

A note on language: kid writing is a product of its time. Sometimes, the things we wrote as kids reflect predjudices of earlier times. We want your reading to stay true to the original words on the page, but if your reading includes predjudicial language of any kind it is your responsibility to flag it so we can properly contextualize, advise the audience, or tweak the wording as necessary.

When am I on?

We usually don’t know the lineup until moments before the show begins. During the course of the show, Dan will give readers a heads-up about who’s “on deck” (coming up next). If you’re on deck, you should make your way towards the front of the room (or backstage, if applicable), and wait to be introduced.

If you have a specific request about timing (e.g. “I’d like to go first”), we can probably accommodate you. Just ask.

How should I read my thing?

Dan will introduce you, and everyone will applaud. You come onstage, and read your thing. The audience laughs, cries. etc. Then, everyone applauds again. You go back to your seat, and that’s it.

Please note: GRTTWaK is not the place to work on your standup act, or tell a story from memory, or read your current writing. There are other shows for those things. GRTTWaK is all about adults, reading childhood and teenage writing, as close to verbatim as possible. Please note that none of these are the title of our show:

If the audience needs to hear a crucial piece of context (e.g. “my sister’s name is Laura,” “my high school’s mascot was a duck”), by all means, include it. But when in doubt: just read your thing.

Should I be nervous?

No way. Remember:

There isn’t a warmer, more supportive crowd than a GRTTWaK crowd. Honest.

The time limit

The goal is to keep things short, and keep things moving. You get five minutes to read, maximum. There is no minimum time limit.  And yes, you’re allowed to read more than one thing, so long as the total length of everything you read isn’t longer than five minutes. Beforehand, practice reading your thing aloud. Time yourself. If your thing is funny, factor in audience laughter. If your thing is longer than five minutes, pick something shorter, or cut something out. Onstage, it’s often hard to know how long you’ve been reading. At most live events, we’ll have a laptop or iPad with a timer on it, so you can check and see how you’re doing time-wise.

Will I be able to read this faded pencil from 30 years ago under the bright stage lights?

Our stages are well-lit. Sometimes, they’re so well-lit that it can be difficult to read your childhood writing. Especially if it’s small, or written in pencil. Pro tip: if your original writing is small or difficult to read, type out a copy in a large font, and keep the typed copy inside the original (if indeed you bring along an original copy – which isn’t a requirement).

Will there be a projector for visuals?

Nope. Sorry.

Will there be a podium or lectern for me to stand behind?

Nope. Sorry.

Will there be a music stand to hold my writing for me?

Nope. Sorry.

Should I post photos of my writing to social media?

Absolutely! Especially if it’s full of awesome drawings that are hard to see from a distance. Snap a photo and post it on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

When will I be on the radio/podcast?

Here’s the thing: you might not end up on the radio/podcast. Our live shows often run more than 90 minutes, and our podcast episodes run ~30 minutes. We always end up with more great material than we can use in the podcast.

If you don’t end up in the podcast, don’t take it personally. Very often, live readings have a “you had to be there” moment that doesn’t translate to tape. GRTTWaK is first and foremost a live event. It’s a room full of people getting together to have fun. The radio show and podcast is a consequence, not the cause. Don’t think of your reading as an audition for the podcast. It’s not.

For more information on how we choose which readings end up in the podcast, Dan wrote a whole thing about that.

Can I get a recording of my reading?

You bet. We make audio recordings of all our live events. We also now make video recordings of most live events.

We post daily reader videos to Facebook and YouTube. Your video will likely be posted in the weeks (or months) following the live event.

If you’d like a recording of your reading, please be patient. Video takes a while. We will probably post a video of you, and we always send a heads-up email to readers to let them know their video has been posted.


If you have any questions about any of this, don’t hesitate to ask: [email protected] If you want to get a better sense of what our shows are like, listen to some past episodes of our podcast or watch videos of past readers.

See you soon, and thanks again!