What is stage fright, anyway?
So last night was that thing. The reading. I spent the day with my brain in the overdrive of heightened anxiety, changed my clothes three times, my shoes four, and slopped half a gallon of product in my hair, in a futile battle with the humidity. I was pretty sure I didn’t have to worry about how my words would be received, or how I’d sound, because surely I was going to have a stroke before it was my turn.
Husband offered to meet me down there. Down, because the bar couldn’t be further from my apartment and still be in Manhattan. No, thanks. I’m one of those people. When I’m nervous about something, I’m better off alone, because your moral support will likely be met by me biting your head off. Cranky. Bitchy, even. That and the fact that I figured the reason I was doing this was to maybe, hopefully, connect with other writers. I know myself. If Husband was with me, it would be the perfect excuse to not speak to anyone, revert to my teenaged self, sit in back and make jokes about myself. Man Child offered to go down with me. No thanks. Then he offered to just travel down with me. Umm, maybe. No, no, I’m a grown up, I don’t need an escort, I’m fine. Are you sure? Yes, thank you. Are you really sure, because I’m going to start laundry otherwise? Yes yes I’m sure.
Ten minutes before I left, I’m going to call Husband and have him meet me. Oops, look at the time, he’s already on his way home, that wouldn’t be nice. I’m good, I can do this.
Five minutes before I left, ummm, Man Child? I changed my mind. But you can’t stay. He traveled downtown with me, and then encouraged me when I spent ten minutes standing outside, bemoaning the fact that I had remembered my camera but not the battery that would allow it to work.
I really have great kids.
At the entrance to the back room, where the event was being held, the producer was checking tickets. I was nervous about the whole e-ticket thing. My name was already on his list, great. I’m scoping the room behind him, happy to see empty seats in back when he says, “Oh. You’re reading.” Was I supposed to mention that? “Umm, yeah, I guess so.” Damn, I’m smooth.
It’s a funny thing. Once I was in, I felt acutely aware that I have never done this before, but not nervous. Basically I was certain I was going to fuck up, drop my pages, lose my voice, have that stroke, yanno. It wasn’t crowded, there were two featured writers and several open mic-ers. The open mic folks were mostly poets. Excellent, this way I was certain to not fit in. I liked the way it was organized, open mic readings scattered throughout the evening with the featured writers in between. (Featured meaning authors with books recently published/about to be published) I’m not sure what I expected, but it was a lively mix of “straight” poetry, spoken word, an excerpt from a graphic novel, excerpts from a flash essay collection, part of a short. The crowd was mixed in age, sex, and ethnicity, also nice.
There was a microphone! Eek. And others were introduced by the MC with a bit about them. Crap, was I supposed to tell them something other than my name and here’s-my-eight-dollars? Ah well. I considered plugging Mrs Fringe before or after I read, but therewasamicrophone. I just did it. I read the opening few pages to Astonishing (probably about half the first chapter, it’s the one up on the blog here). Everyone was quiet while I read, so either I held their attention, or they were taking the opportunity for a cat nap. Maybe they just couldn’t hear me, I didn’t get too close to that mic. I’m from south Brooklyn ferChristssake, I can be plenty loud.
I met a few people who seemed quite nice. Many of those in the audience and those who went up are apparently regulars, but everyone was welcoming. Not one pointed and snickered, or muttered, “poseur” as I went past. If they did I didn’t hear them. Success.
In any case, I felt like it went well. I was surprised I couldn’t see the audience once I was up there, all I saw was lights, and that made it much easier. More surprising, I didn’t feel intimidated while I was reading, I just…read. Scenarios like this always surprise me, no one talking about the angst and futility of trying to get published, trade or otherwise. It’s as if there’s an assumption that you and everyone else is doing it, you belong there.
I might even say I had fun.