I’ve been putting off this post ‘til I could include some photos, but I’ll just update it later on.
As previously mentioned, last week there was a group reading of contributors to CALYX 25:2. This was, I must confess, terribly exciting for me. I have had some previous reading experience: student readings at MFA residencies, the formal graduation reading, and one I ended up doing at Radcon at the instigation of one Jeannine. Those events were fun and extremely educational, but there’s something about reading your own work in a bookstore. It’s the sort of mark of progress that a person should record on her Fame-o-Meter (note to self: update Fame-o-Meter). A reading I was invited to do, where people could, if they wanted, buy work I hadn’t published myself.
The reading went swimmingly. We had three poets, including Helen Gerhardt Pucilowski, who’s about to graduate from the Pacific MFA program.The other prose writer was the inimitable Leslie What, who I first met in that program. Lovely words and moving readings. A lot of people came, some of whom I knew from Pacific, the Portland writing crowd, or the neighborhood. The staff at Annie Bloom’s (my neighborhood bookstore) had to try to find more chairs! Splendid to have so many people there, and so much support.
I really enjoy reading my work. There are some nerves, of course, but I rather enjoy those too. You’re not simply anxious because you’re performing or speaking publicly; you’re tense because there’s no more direct way to put your words before your readers. Short of forcing someone to read your story while you peer into their face from two feet away, you’re never going to get a simpler test of audience reaction (and I think the peering test might produce skewed results). They laugh or they don’t. They meet your eye when you look around or they don’t. I have long thought reading aloud a great way to find the weaknesses in one’s writing, and I read all my stories aloud at least once before they go out to an editor. But this doesn’t just force you to hear your own words, it allows you to see them work (or not) on others. Writing goes from the solitary art to the primal, communal play of storytelling. I loved trying out my story on the audience at Annie Bloom’s Books on Wednesday, and I hope it was only the first of many such auditions.
Thank you to everyone that came. If another reading is arranged, you’ll hear it here first!