When I was little, I was constantly looking for ways to go unnoticed. I equated being noticed to causing trouble or being in trouble. When my grandmother suddenly spotted me lingering around the kitchen while the adults were gossiping, she’d say, “Grown up talk isn’t for little ears!” and shoo me outside to play. If my uncles found me reading a book, they’d poke a big finger hard into my chest and laugh or grab my book and close it so I’d lose my place or, worst of all, call me names like Book Worm and Smarty Pants, names which sound totally benign and silly now but that made me feel shaky, sick in my gut, and exposed, when I was 6 or 8 or 12.
The first person I met when I arrived at Alley Cat Books for last night’s reading was the publisher, Jon Roemer. Jon could not have been nicer or more welcoming, and you could tell how proud he was of the anthology. I had fun meeting and talking to my fellow writers. I took pictures. I put my glasses on top of my head so I would know where to find them, only to discover, upon returning to my seat, that I hadn’t even needed them — since I’d printed out what I was reading in 20 point font. (ha!) And then, as I was leaving the store, a complete stranger asked for my autograph (bless you, sweet woman in line).
Alone in the car on the drive home, I recalled my 6 or 8 or 12 year old self. The reading went well, as readings most always do, in the end, but I understand that what I feel coursing through my body when I stand on a stage or at a podium isn’t as simple as nerves. It’s that same feeling I had as a kid. Low in the gut. Hands and shoulders shaking. Chest pounding, waiting, possibly, for the hard poke of a man’s finger. I’ve always blamed nerves — who wouldn’t be nervous reading their personal, paper words out loud in front of strangers? — but I realize lately that nerves aren’t the whole story. It’s the fear of taking up too much of someone’s time. The fear of causing trouble. The fear of being noticed and told to go outside. The fear of not belonging in the room.
Well, here’s to finding out you do belong in the room and knowing that people want to hear what you have to say. Congratulations, again.
It really is such a strange occurrence — reading in public — for people who like to spend sooooooo much time alone.
Teri, you belonged in that room. You were noticed in a good way. I’m proud of you.
My son read my blog and said, But you’re so outgoing and confident!
One on one: yes. I love to get together for a real conversation, even with a stranger. But this “audience” thing — no, not so much.
Woo hoo Teri! You were in a room full of people who belonged there and knew you did, too. I hope the present tense can eclipse the past. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it! I so wanted to meet you and hear you read.
One of these days, Anna, one of these days. We’ll have to meet in the city for coffee or something — our own little mental health writers conference. 😉
“The fear of taking up too much of someone’s time.” Yes, yes, yes. That hit me in the gut. I think that is still one of the big ones for me.
Congratulations, Teri. This is so well-earned. You have a seat at the grown up’s table, my friend.
Nothing like sitting there, nervous, studying your own nervousness.
Yes to all those fears, and I will add my own personal fear of being a bore. It’s an odd dichotomy of the writer’s psyche, yeah? We want so much to be heard, but being seen scares the shit out of us.
Congratulations on being heard and seen and on signing your autograph (!!!). You are my hero.
Ohdearlordyes, the fear of being a bore. That too. That too.
Like Averil said, heard and seen, yes. I would pay good money to hear and see you. You’re a treasure.
Can we all just get together on Friday nights for writing group and wine?
TAKE UP MY TIME! Please!
HA! Thanks Paul. That was my favorite laugh of the week. And I appreciate the thought, too.
I could not be more proud of you. Congratulations, Teri!