All Readings Are Alike… Until They’re Not

Manifest Mondays are where I chat exclusively about writing and the writing life.

A few months ago, I was tickled pink to receive an invite to read at Helen‘s fifth-anniversary celebration at Green Valley Library last week. They also asked to republish Red Rock Canyon, which I wrote as a prompt for my Short Story class in grad school. I’m so glad it’s getting out there.

But I’m also glad I’m getting out there.

This was my first reading since my grad school reading. I know right?

I’ve been so preoccupied with everything going on in my life financially and personally that I haven’t been focusing on my writing. I had been warned about this during my program, but I swore I wouldn’t be that writer. And I ended up becoming that writer!

I decided to read one poem, Find Another Eden, from “Roadside Afflictions,” this poetry collection I’ve been meaning to self-publish for ages. Writing those poems was the perfect therapy for me. The whole collection captured how I felt being caught between two worlds. I’ve always felt that but I think there is some universality about traveling that made this collection deeply personal to me.

Since I wanted to be polite, I only practiced Eden. But listening to the other poets made me realize it was okay to read more. I ended up selecting A bout de soufflé and I-5 from the collection as well, on the fly.

It went well, my family and boyfriend agreed that it was good. The only criticism I got was I breathed too much. I enunciated just fine without a mic, so I should trust myself to project without one. I mean, I already have a big voice. I should trust the damn thing, right?

But, my favorite part was the vibe. It was a rowdy and diverse crowd (about as rowdy as a crowd of people consuming art can be), and Helen said it was the biggest turnout they had in forever. So, maybe that was it?

I’m not sure if all open mics are like this out here, but the ones I went to in the Bay were grossly uptight. It was always this dour and super serious, THIS IS ART vibe. That’s excruciating for someone like me! I need life, vibrancy, and jokes to keep the mood light.

In fact, I cracked a joke before I started. I said, “I don’t have any cute anecdotes, but go Knights go!” I got some laughs and a woo! from the audience. Works for me.

I completely understand that creativity and sharing your work is a deeply vulnerable event. Which it is. There was a lovely poem performed that night and the poet had the whole crowd weeping for him.

In fact, I was anxious for weeks leading up to it when I let those thoughts get the best of me. But it was so calming to be in a room full of people laughing and interacting with the poets directly. To me, writing is meant to be shared with an audience, whether you’re in the room with them or not. I need that audience to interact with me if I’m seeing them in real life.

So politely clapping or snapping your fingers is not conducive to my thought patterns. I want you weeping with me, I want you connecting with me, I want a live studio audience and not a laugh track, goddamnit.

I guess that’s the performer in me.

But the even made me realize that I do need to get out there more. My best friend said I broke the ice, so now I have no reason not to go to any future ones. I’m really excited to attend the next open mic sponsored by Helen or to find more open mics to attend and support the community or to host open mics myself.

And to get off my duff and publish my collections! I have three in mind: Regina (the self-reflection one), Ars Amatoria (Latin for the Art of Love, which was a book written by Ovid but the title is a sly reference to the Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare), and Roadside Afflictions. I just need to find time to do the dirty work myself.

Such is the life of a professional writer with a day job. Meh.

My niece attended the reading and recorded my performance for my Dad who couldn’t make it. I posted the three poems on Instagram if you’re so inclined to view them.

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