Thanks to all who offered support for my debut at Open Mike Night. Thoughts Appear asked, in her comment, how it went. It went something like this.
In the afternoon, I carefully selected about 6 of my favorite posts for my readings. My printer jammed a couple of times and I swore like a sailor. I started to get a little nauseous. Apparently I hit on the correct combination of 4 letter words that aligned the mechanisms for the print cartridge, paper tray, and squeaky rollers inside my printer. Shit. I can’t read type that small. I enlarged the font, reprinted, and sweated a lot; but I manage to swear a little less this round.
I took a shower and put on a sundress (it was about 100 degrees). I soon needed another shower – how can it possibly be this hot? I felt a little more nauseous. I re-read the poems/posts/articles I had written and declared them to be “poop on a stick”.
Sweet Cheeks and I got to the venue early to have dinner before the event. He asked if he could have a little preview of what I will perform. I declined, telling him I would like to have him just listen when I read, feel the words. I felt even more nauseous. I did, however, manage to eat every bite. I have never been nervous enough, in this lifetime, to lose my appetite. However, I now felt like the nausea had a little something to work with. This could be bad.
I clutched my folder containing the poop-on-a-stick and searched for a spot in the audience area where there might be a breeze (non-existent, it is now 110 degrees). I definitely need another shower. There was a fountain and I briefly considered wading in it, or better yet, lying down in the 12 inch deep water. Instead, I fanned myself with the folder. It was getting soggy from my sweaty hands, and I feared my papers would disintegrate.
A band was setting up on the stage. They had asked the writing group permission to perform a couple of songs. I’m not sure if they were original songs, but we never really turn anybody down. They spent a lot of time getting set up. I spend a lot of time fanning myself and looking for a planter or trash receptacle to vomit in should the need arise.
A professor from the college came around to take down names of anyone who wished to read/recite/perform. I tell him I “might” read a few things. Another professor showed up, whom I’ve met before at a writer’s workshop. He was actually the one who told me to quit talking about writing and starting doing it. He remembered, and shook my sweaty hand, and thankfully, did not recoil in disgust as my dripping fingers slid from his grip (okay, I’m embellishing it a little, but it was damned hot and I was sweating bullets, as they say). Once again, I do not throw up.
The first prof introduced himself and the band performed their 2 songs (they were actually pretty good). The prof then read a few of his poems and essays. Halfway through his readings, I excused myself to find a ladies room. I splashed water on my face and wrists. Either I am going to throw up or I will be the first spontaneous human combustion in the history of the writing group. I returned to my seat. Neither happened.
My name was called and I went on stage. Until this very moment I am not even sure I will read anything. I introduced myself and tell everyone (about 10 people, including the band) that I am a nurse, not a writer. I started, slowly, trying to enunciate clearly. During the first piece the prof/emcee walked over to my husband and whispered something to him. At the end of the first piece there was applause. I wanted to sit down, but decided to read another piece. I am drenched in sweat and alternately fan myself and try to blow my bangs from my eyes, but they are too heavy with perspiration to move. However, I no longer feel nauseous.
At the end of the second piece, one of the band members yelled up at me – “You are a writer”. I probably blushed, but I was so damned hot it wouldn’t matter anyway. I read 2 more pieces – I nearly cried when I read about being a nurse and caring for my patients until their last breath. I got some laughs with my piece about the Housewives of Charlotte County. I did cry a little when I read my 9/11 etheree We Can Never Be the Same. I left the stage and saw a tear on the cheek of my beloved. He smiled and took my hand.
A student from the college reads a few poems – including one written for her autistic brother, Mikey, who is in attendance. He cheered loudly, as we all did.
When the program is over, we mingled around the front of the stage. One woman told me she cried during “Where I am From“. Everyone commented on their favorite piece. The professors both told me I was “fabulous” and certainly must bring back more of my writing. The student poet, and her family, surrounded me and we chatted a long time. I was humbled that the audience was touched.
As we were leaving, my husband told me that the professor had come over to him shortly after I started reading and whispered “she is fabulous”. He (my husband) was immensely proud. I was exceedingly tired and damp.
As a teacher, I am not afraid of public speaking. But this was the first time I had shared my writing with anyone outside of my blog, and it really was terrifying. It is not easy to share your innermost thoughts with not only the person you have spent most of your adult life with, but perfect strangers as well.
If you have a writer’s group in your area, I encourage you to go to their meetings. If there isn’t one, I would suggest you contact the community colleges in the area and see if there is any interest. Or contact some coffeehouses (like those are hard to find!) and see if there are any opportunities. But share your work, put it out there. There was something very terrifying about holding forth a creation and saying “Here it is. This is me. I hope you like it.” But there is also something tremendously satisfying about knowing that your words moved someone.
There is also a lot to be said for not throwing up.