I read two short stories out loud, in front of an audience last night. What an experience.
A local gallery, Modbo, holds a BYOB Poetry Open Mic monthly, and I had heard that prose was welcome. I had planned to do this for the last several weeks, and in an effort to make sure I followed through, I actually told people of my plans. It's very easy to chicken out when no one expects you do do something; much more difficult after any level of public committment to same. So, I committed, out loud, and even dragged a few pals with me for moral support.
I am not a stranger to public speaking, and am not in the least intimidated by it, or so I thought. I had forgotten how frightening it can be to read my own fiction in front of a group of strangers. I was last on the sign-in list, not by choice, but rather because I was one of the last to arrive. I verified before I signed in that prose was in fact okay, and that I would be able to read both short pieces I had prepared.
Oh the words which were slung before my turn came around. About Colorado, about breathing, about ancient times, about love, about lust, and in so many voices, from Kerouac-style middle aged men to post-beat 17 year old teens, to a grandmother who needed a chair on stage. Oh. The words.
And too soon, it was my turn, and I worried -- were my pieces good enough, short enough, long enough, would they have enough voice, would they speak to the audience like the poetry had, was I insane, should I run for the door...it is amazing how many simultaneous thoughts one can have while crossing 10 feet of a room toward a microphone.
But I smiled, and made myself cross the room, and shut off the inner critic and the inner fearfulness, and even cracked a joke while stepping to the mic about jacking the wonderful poetry with fiction and thank you all for the indulgence.
And I read.
I read "Small Details" a bit of short fiction about a counselor at a domestic violence shelter unable to keep her emotional distance from her clients. And then to offset the depressing tone of that story, I read "Fate is an Alpha Chick", a flash fiction piece which is frothy and silly and exactly where I wanted to leave people. And they drew breath in, my audience, when I spoke of the ugliness of domestic violence, and they also laughed in all the right places when they heard about Martin having been robbed of his pants, and when I was done, and paused for a moment, I realized my hand, the hand that held the pages, was shaking.
And then they applauded, and yelled and approved.
And yeah, I know I like that approval, but in this case it wasn't the liking of me which took my breath away for a moment, but the liking of the words...the words all worked, how I wanted them to, and those folks, who all love words too, went on my small word-based journeys with me, and I wanted to cry, but instead laughed and demanded a drink, because, well, that's what I do.
I would never presume to say that I, Deb Courtney, am brilliant, but can say this with some level of confidence: that experience was completely brilliant, and never mind the fear, I will do it again.
The final snippet: Yes, but I have a platinum card and there are Alpha Males in there (yes, from last night, when my dear friends were kind enough to want to buy me th edrink I demanded).