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Two Readings and a One

I know I have been dreadful at responding to everything lately. I was sick for a week, then it was the husband's turn to feel unwell for a while. There was a week or two when work decided to rain on me like an opera god. Now, I'm slowly getting sick once again, and the cycle of life begins anew.

And amidst all that, there were two readings for Morbid Curiosity.

On the Saturday before my birthday, we trooped over to Borderlands for my first ever reading in the United States. My whole motley -- literally, everyone who attended my wedding last year a.k.a. that unconventional band of gamers -- showed up to lend their support, which felt pretty awesome. A fair number of the attendees were contributors. It was the first in a series of reading in the city, and Borderlands was the place Morbid Curiosity was last seen, when a wake was held there in its honour three years ago. I was terribly nervous during the reading. I know my capacity for eye contact was low, and I kept worrying people wouldn't be able to hear me over the pedestrians outside. For the most part, I was also quite afraid that my jokes were falling flat, and that people just ... weren't laughing. After everyone had read, I had a very interesting conversation with kn1ghtshade about how horror stories were a substitute, in the US, for mystical experiences that formed part of daily culture elsewhere in the world. In particular, he gave the experience of late night TV horror medleys, introduced by gruesomely dressed hosts, as the direct equivalent of a shaman explaining the world's unknown qualities to an expectant audience. I got autographs from the other contributors, who were friendly and warm, and we had photos taken where I am certain I had my eyes closed -- I have the worst luck with photography.

That night, I worried incessantly about my performance at the reading. I was still fairly sure I had offended someone, or perhaps I just didn't do well. I spoke about this to scanner_darkly and morbidloren, who told me what I was feeling was normal. We all agreed it would probably take some practice and time.

A couple of weeks later, I received an opportunity to read at Pegasus Books in Berkeley. I took the chance, with reservations. I looked forward far more to attending another Morbid Curiosity reading the day before I was due to read myself, at Books Inc. in the Castro. It was the special GLBT Morbid Curiosity event. Among other things, Dean Estes read about growing up gay as a member of the Mormon Church, which I found deeply humorous, and slightly familiar in how growing up in a conservative and religious culture is an unusually homogenous emotional experience. I managed to get him to autograph his story after the read. I was truly nervous asking all the writers for their signatures that night. Dean was awfully sweet though. He picked up right away that I wasn't local, and asked if I was a contributor too. My favourite story that evening was one Loren read on behalf of JD, about assisting in the suicide of a friend with AIDS. It was a beautiful tale, and a beautiful experience hearing that tale read aloud, just one of those necessary things to hear spoken in the Castro. The room, if not the whole store, went totally silent when the crux of the story became clear. When she finished, people were almost too terrified to clap. It is, in no small part because of the reading, my favourite tale in the entire anthology.

I was walked home that night by the very kindly Claudius Reich and his lovely housemate. It was a great night to be out. A little cold, but just enough that a long walk was pleasant, and the streets were busy enough to seem safe, but also quiet enough they felt homely and welcoming. I was deeply glad I attended the reading at Books Inc. The experience was certainly an enlightening one, and the company was utterly charming.

The reading at Pegasus Books happened on a particularly busy day. We were gaming that afternoon, with a special marathon session of 'auditions' from a murder opera module iamfourninjas found for Pathfinder. I got the part of, "the torturer who experiences a change of heart". At first, I was worried I wouldn't make it in time to BART to the reading, but our intrepid GM and bettyscout were kind enough to drive me to the bookstore and have dinner with me to boot. I was whisked off to an Irish pub, where I had a tasty potato pancake topped with cured salmon, and I made it just in time for the reading. I was still worried my throat was feeling a bit itchy and I'd lose my voice halfway through, but it lasted well enough.

The Berkeley reading was quite a sea change from the reading at Borderlands. It was a much more open-planned bookstore, with higher ceilings and quite a bit brighter. There was some kind of sports event happening outside, which meant the entire downtown area was busy, including in the shop. The audience at the reading included a good mix of perfect strangers and a couple of friends -- the intrepid GM and his spousal unit both stayed for my reading, because they are awesome like that. The crowd laughed at all the right places when people read. The stories were generally fairly humorous that night, which may have helped. I managed to hang out briefly with Allegra, ex-copyeditrix of Gothic.Net, and very briefly saw tjcrowley, who read his story and mysteriously disappeared before I could say hello.

I took the BART home with Loren, who is, as always, very sweet and equally, very delightfully morbid. The husband met me at 24th and Mission with a big hug. It was extremely pleasant to walk home with him. I genuinely enjoyed that last reading (the last, as it turned out, in San Francisco), and it was a fun day in general. Both readings were very real educational experiences for me to go through as a writer. I feel slightly better equipped, if for whatever reason, I am called upon to read again. It may take me a while yet to get over my phobia about readings though.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 18th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
It was an honor to have you read both times. And a pleasure!
Nov. 18th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you for letting me read. It was my pleasure to be part of the MC events in San Francisco. :)
Nov. 18th, 2009 02:10 pm (UTC)
Your readings

The more you do it the easier it will get. You begin to realize after you did the first one, that you didn't die. Teaching a class of undergraduates has a somewhat similar feelng.
Nov. 18th, 2009 06:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Your readings
The last time I read my work, prior to this, was at an adult writing class, where I was also teaching. I was surprised anyone got some learning out of the class. I was nervous and inept. But I didn't die.

I'm not sure I'll ever be inclined to teach writing again, but I think I've started to like readings. To see how the audience reacts, and because I feel the audience has more of a connection to my work that way. I think it's worthwhile for me to keep practicing at this!
Nov. 18th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC)
good for you! I have a presentation coming up for work that I'm half dreading and a cello recital in Feb. that I'm totally dreading. XD

I know - you should come to Boston to do a reading! ;)
Nov. 18th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
Good luck with the presentation. I do admire anyone with the aptitude for a musical instrument, and I wished I was able to attend one of your recitals. :)

One of these days, I will definitely need to head to Boston. And with any luck, one of these days, I will be able to read there!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )