The first reading

Posted: November 19, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Last Thursday I participated in my first reading, outside of reading to my fellow graduate students while we are safely in our cocoon of the residency. The reading was a benefit for one of the island’s local food banks — so it was easy to calm the nerves by remembering it wasn’t about me at all, but about filling plates the holidays and beyond in the rural community I live in.

That is until about 3pm on the day of the event (which started at 7pm) when my mom called to tell me that both she and my father were going to attend. Please understand it has probably been more than five years since I have showed work to any member of my family. My grandmother asks me everytime I see her to send her a story, but I’m pretty sure she still thinks I’m writing about young girls riding their ponies! It’s a tricky thing, showing your work to your family. Even as a fiction writer I know that my family is going to sit in the audience and think — did that really happen? Did she (me) ever really do that (insert terrible thing here — such as speeding with a boy in a Coupe up and down the rural island roads while drinking)? Is that character actually me (mother, father, sister). I always assumed that it would be terribly painful for me when my family finally heard my current work, but what I realized last week was that it is possibly harder on them than it is on me. After all, I get to sit there and say, no, no, it’s fiction, it’s not you. And they have to believe me.

So, we all faced our fears on Thursday. I stepped to the microphone and gave a good reading. It was full of tension. It was gritty. Several people came up to me afterward (and not family or friends who are required to say nice things) and complimented the story. My parents did not get up and walk out, and if they were uncomfortable they hid it well. They definitely saw a side of their daughter that is not the same woman who shows up for family dinner (and I cleaned up the scene a little in case there were children in the room!). It was good for me to understand that as I come into my own as a writer, my family is going to have to adjust, as will I.

In terms of the hero’s journey, I think I have officially left my “ordinary world” and am on my way into the “special world” where the rules change, as well as relationships.

So, to all my emerging writers, when you are ready, just risk it all, invite the whole family, and step up to the microphone. You might be surprised.

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