You got no blog post from me last week because I was sick. I know everyone loves DC’s cherry blossoms, but they are the absolute worst when it comes to allergies. So, no, I wasn’t lamenting the fact that I haven’t had a drink since March 5; I was on my couch watching a marathon of Project Runway season 2, barely able to breathe.
Anyway, last night, I went to Readings on the Pike,* a reading series featuring local writers. It was, of course, awesome, but it made me realize: I forgot to blog about my own reading experience! I was one of the featured Readings on the Pike readers for February, my first real public reading (Well, the first one that was planned, not spontaneous) (And, actually, I guess it depends on if you count the one I did at Bread Loaf as public. Anyway…).
I waited until the Friday before the reading (they’re always on Monday nights) to choose what I was going to read. I didn’t mean to wait that long; life just kept getting in the way. I asked a friend who’d also done it what she recommended.
“Don’t staple your pages together; it’s awkward when you’re up there,” she said. “Print it out single-sided and in at least a 14 point font. Go over it once and you’ll be good.”
I wasn’t nervous until she said that last part.
“Only once???” I replied.
“Yeah. You don’t want to overdo it. And there will be wine, so you’ll be fine.”
I chose to read the beginning of “The Right of Way,” my most recently published work. I thought it might be weird to read aloud because it’s a braided essay, meaning, more than one thing is happening over the course of it: I slow down the instance of getting hit by a car to reflect on other times that I’d been angry. I like the essay as I wrote it, but I thought it would be weird to read it since it goes back and forth in time.
But then I remembered a key strategy from my public speaking class in business school: When you want to change a subject, pause and then physically shift your body to a new location. This will allow the audience to know that you’re about to talk about something different. (And is also why you shouldn’t pace back and forth all willynilly. You confuse your audience that way.)
Of course, I practiced the piece more than once because I couldn’t trust myself to only do it once. I had to shave down some of it, too, to fit the 7 minute time limit. I practiced in a callbox in my coworking space. I can only imagine how I must have looked and sounded to onlookers.
On the night of the reading, I was thrilled that my spouse and some folks from my Writer’s Center essay class came out to support me! It was great to see friendly faces in the crowd, though, to be honest, everyone there is a friendly face. I could be wrong, but I think the majority of people who attend Readings on the Pike are writers themselves, so they’re a sympathetic audience. But I was so glad they all made the effort to come all the way out to Virginia – VIRGINIA – to see me read!
As the two readers in line before me read, I felt great, but as it got closer to my turn, my hands started to shake. Which was weird because my brain and the rest of my body felt fine, not nervous at all. When I went up the mic, I felt good. And then I realized that the mic was too short and that I couldn’t actually move the way I needed to because the mic was in a stand, and when I was doing that business school presentation, I had one of those body mics.
But I reminded myself that none of that mattered. Everyone was there to hear what I had written, regardless of where I stood while doing so.
So, I read.
I took pauses in the places where I would have shifted my body to signal the new sections, and I read.
And it went great!
Everyone who read after me was fantastic, too. And I had this moment of saying, Hot dangit, I am a writer, a real one, who has this great community of other writers who are supportive, and of readers who are supportive, and of my spouse who is supportive. And I could have cried.
But I didn’t, because I’m not a crier. I’m a laugher.
*Readings on the Pike occurs the third Monday of the month at Josephine’s Italian Kitchen on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA.