Typically, Gettin’ Real will feature author interviews and such the like. However, I’m HIJACKING it this week to post about a different kind of “gettin’ real.” My first time reading my own work in public. It’s one thing to read to your family, friends or professors. It’s quite another to stand up in front of a strange audience and perform.
I attend Columbia College Chicago as a Fiction Writing major when I’m not working full time. I graduate next spring. Early last week a call went out within our department asking for Fic majors to read at this year’s Printer’s Row Literary Fest.
If you’ve never heard of it, Printer’s Row is an annual fest held in Chicago along Dearborn and Polk streets. It’s free and hosts everything from small publishers to big name authors. I had never been to it before, which is a shame since I’ve lived in or around this city my entire life.
Anyway, the call went out for people willing to read their work in ten minute blocks of time. You could read anything, as long as it was family friendly (a memo some clearly didn’t get) and it fit the time frame. I told them I’d be happy to read, even though I had a flush of nerves sending the email, and soon I was signed up for the 2:30 p.m. slot on Sunday, June 10th. I told my friends and family and suddenly there was a caravan of people coming. The quick mobilization of support was amazing.
The booth was exactly how I figured it would be. Fairly large with a microphone set up and plastic folding chairs haphazardly arranged. I knew most of the people reading in the blocks around mine, which calmed me some. It was like we were reading to each other in class. Minus the hundreds of Chicagoans walking by.
I would be lying if I didn’t say my stomach was turning over a little as I waited to read. Honestly though, I was so ready for this experience that my excitement outweighed my nerves. I read a piece I had written based off an event in a friend’s life. It required me to read in a thick Chicago accent. So, not only was I reading in public for the first time, I was reading in dialect. The actual reading itself I have trouble remembering. I know I looked up and made eye contact. I know I held the accent fairly well. I know I wasn’t nervous. I lost myself in the moment. I didn’t think about all the people listening and simply told the story. It was a rush that I felt the minute I stepped away from the mic.
It was a rush I couldn’t wait to experience again.