In November I heard the eloquent Charlie Price talk about his writing process and read some of his latest work. After the reading I had a serious Fan Girl Moment wherein I asked him to sign one of his books and then I gushed all over about how I’m a member of Writers Forum and so is he and isn’t it great that we’re both in it together and that we’re both writers, well, one of us is an aspiring writer, and isn’t writing just the best and I just love teaching kids to write and could he please, please sign my book?
Sigh. I am a superdork.
He was lovely about it all and asked if I was going to read anything at the upcoming bi-annual Writers Forum read aloud. I shook my head and explained that I probably wouldn’t read because I am terrified, absolutely horrified, of speaking in public, which is an improvement, believe it or not. Charlie encouraged me to read and I told him I’d think about it.
Well, I did think about it. And I decided to do it, to ignore my profusely sweating armpits and just suck it up and read. The rules of the read aloud are simple: You have five minutes to read something you’ve written. At four and a half minutes you get a thirty-second warning. At five minutes you get the hook.
I did not want to get the hook. I was sure if I did, I would melt into a big sweaty puddle of embarrassment. So I dug through my archives and weeded out pieces that were too short or too long. I whittled it down to two pieces, one a funny piece and one a piece written during the most difficult time of my life. I loved writing them both, but writing the latter piece was one of the things that helped me survive that time.
I thought to myself what if, just what if, I not only took the chance to read aloud, but instead of hiding behind humor, what if I laid down all my masks and read something that mattered, something that exposed vulnerability?
Ooh, that would be risky, scary even.
But maybe it would be worth it.
Saturday morning at Writers Forum, I swallowed my pride along with a big bundle of nerves and signed up to read. I was ninth in line, meaning I sweated through eight other readings before it was my turn. There were some great writers in that room, writers who softened my heart and writers who made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt.
And then it was my turn. I was impossibly nervous. Oh, Lord, when will speaking in public get easier?
I stepped up to the microphone and I read this piece.
My heart was pounding and at some point during the reading I seemed to lose contact with my legs. I don’t know if it was because my heart was pounding in my ears, but it seemed to me the only sound in the room was my voice. My timid voice, reading about dragonflies of all things. Reading about how dragonflies helped me pick up all the broken pieces.
After I finished reading I sat down and waited for the feeling to return to my legs. At the break, many people came up to me and said kind things about my piece. Charlie Price, the Charlie Price, was sitting next to me and said some of the nicest things I’ve ever heard about my writing. I was touched and humbled.
The woman sitting on the other side of me called me the Dragonfly Lady. And I kind of like it because, dear reader, I’m happy to say I no longer live in that mire. I have shed my sorrowful skin and I’m winging my way through this beautiful life.
Dragonfly Lady, yup, I can live with that, especially because dragonflies have six legs. So the next time I’m reading some of my writing aloud and I lose feeling in my legs, I’ll rest easy in the knowledge that I’ve got four more to stand on.