The first time I was asked to do a reading, I was ridiculously nervous. It was in front of about 80 people, most of whom were strangers (was that better or worse?). I had chopped up my story because it was too long to read all of it, and wasn’t sure if it was going to work. The reading was part of a larger end-of-the-semester English ceremony, a combination Sigma Tau Delta induction and Rock Writing release party. The reading came near the end, and I was nervous and dry-mouthed through most of the ceremony.
But when I stood up and faced everyone and started to read, the nerves went away. It was like the words belonged in my voice. At least, words and voice certainly knew what to do with each other. The words carried me, and my story came off of the page and lived.
Since then I was invited to read at Your Inner Vagabond coffee shop (now closed, sadly) and Pitt’s MFA reading series. It is much the same experience, and always begins with nervousness, with a feeling of the inadequacy of my writing. But the words always carry me as I read. They open out into the world and it is beautiful.
I’m pretty sure this is not because my writing is breathtakingly brilliant. Perhaps it is because words are meant to be spoken. Perhaps because we write stories to share them, and reading them aloud is much more immediate and intimate.
All this because I have found a recording of Flannery O’Connor reading “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and her lecture, “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction.” This has made my month.