Friday, July 20, 2007

Reading tart

So, I'm off in the rain for my third reading of the week. This is definitely NOT normal for me. Three years ago, I would have rather gouged my eyes out than stand up in front of a group of strangers and read out something I'd written. In fact, my first reading was kept an absolute secret in case anyone I knew turned up, because I was so sure I was going to a) fall over b) burst out crying c) be heckled d) lose my ability to see (and therefore read) or e) realise that what I had written was absolute crap and not be able to carry on. But slowly, slowly, I grew to like it. And now I like it very much indeed.

I don't even hear all those voices from my childhood any more - Sarah Peplow, what are you doing showing off like that! Come and sit down and be a nice quiet girl! As if anyone wanted to hear what you have to say!

No siree, it's very difficult to get me out of the spotlight these days. I wasn't even embarrassed recently when I had to be asked to leave a recent seminar I was a guest reader at because they wanted to get on with the next bit and I had outstayed my welcome. If the host hadn't done that, I would have stayed talking all day.

So of course, at tomorrow's conference, I will stand up and a) fall over b) burst out crying c) be heckled d) lose my ability to see and e) realise.... you get the picture, but even so I don't think that will stop me aching for the next go! And I still get nervous too, but now I have certain people I can yelp at beforehand and who will always offer calm advice. My favourite text came as I was travelling by train to a reading recently - 'Tell yourself loudly and clearly: 'I am a Goddess', and then grab a large gin from the trolly'.

Seriously, I think the biggest change in my attitude towards readings came when I realised that actually what the audience wanted was to be entertained rather than to physically and mentally torture me. It wasn't supposed to be a painful ordeal. Going to see other writers helped a lot. Sharon Olds, in particular, is a fantastic reader, talking rather than pronouncing, and funny too. You feel you've spent some time with a real person, and a person who is enjoying herself too. This recording highlights everything that, to me, is good about a reading. The poem she reads about catching sight of her middle-aged rear view made me laugh so much (in a bitterly empathetic way!)


hesitant scribe said...

Hi Sarah - you did not a) fall over, b) burst out crying - although you made me and quite a few other people burst out laughing... you get the picture ;-)

It was great. Really great. And I particularly liked the Second Life anectdote!

It was my first conference paper so I was feeling exactly the same things as you in the morning - convinced I'd get chocked, or that everyone would think it was awful...

But it was good. A good conference and I enjoyed it. I hope you did too despite the rain. The ducklings, at least, were content!

Caroline said...

Ah! Wish that I'd known about this. I would have come along.
Glad it went well.
I loved this post so much so that it made me delurk!

Sarah Salway said...

Oh nice to see you out in the open, Caroline - I remembered the lipstick by the way! ANd hi, Lisa - good to meet you in real life and look forward to coming across you in the other one too!