Congratulations are in order. As Poor Writers, we decided to do our first reading together—initially tricking ourselves into confidence, and then regretting that we signed up for a good bit. Seriously. There were text messages of “oh right we agreed to do that together. Are you sure they won’t throw tomatoes?” and discussions of our stories with “do you think they’ll throw tomatoes after I read this?”
For those of you wondering, they did not throw tomatoes. The night was as tomato free as possible. That was either a conscious decision on everyone’s part (I like to assume that they were being kind) or maybe we weren’t as bad as we thought we could be.
My friends Melissa and Isabel hosted the event in Brooklyn, and the theme of the night was navigation. I was interested with what other writers and artists came up with, from thoughts jumping, observations of time, travel abroad, to aging and maturity. People performed spoken word, a song, longer fiction. There were a lot of directions—ah, I see what you did there, Melissa—for people to go.
I read second after Melissa, and while I had done stand-up before (as people reminded me when I would remark on my nerves) I was still timid. With stand-up, it is a little more embarrassing when you miss with a joke, but with fiction, there’s more to build and more to say and perform to make authentic. There’s more for me to sell and work with. Plus, I wanted it to come from a real place with more of a play on cadence and pace. But out of self-preservation, I did lean towards humor.
I know that seems terribly disjointed. Here I am talking about how I was nervous and justifying my feeling and then I go and admit that I wrote a funny story because I’m comfortable with it. But let me just say—SHUT UP THAT’S HOW I FEEL.
All-caps shuts down any argument you may have.
But I read it, and as I read it, I could hear my voice and could feel self-conscious over my voice —Did I always sound like that? What is that lump in my throat? Am I dying? I felt myself get breathless to get to the next sentence—Pace yourself. You’re speeding up. You make no sense! I started to realize that I had three pages—what was I doing with that many pages?—of story handwritten. I started to realize that I was getting things mixed up. I skipped a sentence to speed it up—why don’t you just read the text? Why can’t you just read what’s in front of you, rather than riffing off what you wrote?
I had to make myself not just jump off stage, though I have a feeling I did it.
But afterwards, while we mingled during break, I would have people come up to me and tell me that the over-thought taking center stage in my story was something they related to. People related to the situation and have been that scenario before. It was nice to know that they were listening and noticing this rather than my nerves and mistakes.