Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Reading Day, Part III

Years ago I was friends with someone who had the uncanny ability to stretch her birthday out from a single day to a week-long celebration. There was the happy hour/dinner with work folks; there was the dinner out with her non-work friends; if she had a boyfriend, there was a birthday dinner with him; and finally there was Friday and/or Saturday night out as well, assuming the birthday didn’t occur on the weekend (I suspect the years it did, she felt cheated). I feel kind of like that now as I milk this week’s reading yet again, and will do so again some time next week. At least next week’s post on the reading will involve tips and strategies for those of you who may be doing your own readings.

My wife will attest that I was a wreck all day. I was nervous, keyed up, had trouble eating. Probably the best thing I did was mow the lawn (half of it, anyway), which killed good hour and a half and occupied my mind. There’s something very meditative in riding a lawn tractor around in big circles. I get a lot of good brain work in that way. We got to the arts center an hour before the scheduled reading and I promptly abandoned my wife and kids, hanging out with my writers’ circle friends instead. Aside from reading, we had a job of selling books, so I had to know what we were going to do. The book launch was part of a bigger event, the opening of the gallery for the season, so there was the potential for a lot of people.

At five, the doors opened. We drew a fair number of people, a number of whom bought the book–and asked for autographs. I will say, signing your name on something like this is an even stranger sensation than seeing your story in print.

We were very fortunate to have great weather. It was sunny, warm–but not too hot. We had a stage set up in the courtyard, there was a bar with beer and wine. I did not partake until I was done. The drawback for me was I went in the penultimate spot. 8 readers, I went 7th, and it took about 45 minutes before it was my turn. Somehow, I did not need to run to the bathroom half-a-dozen times!

I could get away with black–it was still Memorial Day!

The piece I’ve read is called Katydid Nights, and I’ve actually written about it before. By the time it was my turn, the crowd directly in front of the stage had thinned a bit, but there was a nice number  of people spread along one side, watching–and listening. As I posted earlier in the week, I nailed it, and got some nice applause. Better still, while I was getting my celebratory beer while writer #8 was preparing to take the stage, the husband of one of my fellow writers told me, “That really resonated with me.” That made me feel really, really good. Later, when the reading was over, another person approached me and told me the same thing. It truly was a great feeling–and it still is.

That’s it for me for now. Next time I write about reading, I will have what I hope will be useful tips and suggestions to make it all easier. Have a great weekend, everyone, and thanks for reading!

Photo by Barb Enderley

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