Last week I headed to Wordspring’s Literary Soiree in Quispamsis. Myself and many other writers were being honored with awards won in the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick’s (WFNB) annual writing competition. My short story Dragon Crossing won first place in the Fog Lit Books for Young People category. All of the winners were invited to read a four minute selection from their winning pieces as they received their award.
That’s what got me. I have always wanted to read my stories to a crowd. Speeches, blah. University presentations? Meh. Stories? Heck yeah!
The WFNB gave me about a month to practice, and I used it. I practiced my selection about four to five times every day, usually in the backyard to wee Nim and the trees, sometimes inside to Kira (our black lab) who would wag her tail in appreciation. I cut parts I stumbled over, clarified speakers, and found my character’s voices.
At one point I realized I could recite the whole piece by heart. So could the maples in the backyard.
Still, I’ve been that person frozen on stage, stumbling over words I’ve lost all control of. It’s an awful place to be. My stories are my friends, we spend long hours together, pushing and prodding each other into our bests, and I wanted to make Dragon Crossing proud.
When the moment arrived, looking up at the crowded room laying out before the podium, my hands trembling, it struck me: these people are all writers too. I plunged in, forced confidence giving way to having fun as the audience laughed in the right places and I got lost in telling this story I love beyond its words.
I’m pulling a bit of a funny face in this next photo, but I love it because I know exactly which line I’m reading. A character cracks a snarky joke and the audience laughed right on cue, which felt amazing and edged out the worst of my nerves.
In a blink it was over and someone else stood behind the podium, reading their story and having their moment. I enjoyed listening to them, especially the newbies like me, wondering if they were half as nervous. More experienced writers blew me away and taught me more than a few things to remember for next time. A lady reading her prize poem planted a story seed which bloomed just yesterday.
After the readings a handful of writers took the time to say kind things about my reading and my story, which gave me a thrill and a few quotes to stuff inside my anti-discouragement files for dark days ahead.
I can’t know if my next audience will be as friendly as this one, but I will admit I’m eager to read my stories to a crowd again. It was a wonderful first.