Ruminations of a Red Dirt Hussy

May 9, 2016

Reading is hard, y’all.

Filed under: General — Vadasmaker @ 10:44 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

When a person or group asks me to share my work with them, I am beyond pleased. I am thrilled, grateful, and always a little afraid.

Afraid that I won’t read well; afraid that the other readers, all of whom are undoubtedly far more talented than I am, will outshine me; afraid no one will show up; afraid that if people do show up they will all be strangers, people who’ve come to hear other readers, any reader but me; afraid that if anyone does come to hear me, I will do so poorly that they will cringe and be unable to meet my eyes when I’m through.

My experiences have almost always been positive, mostly because professionals know readings are hard. They shouldn’t be—I mean, we’ve all been reading aloud since we could read, right? And don’t we write because we want other people to know what we think, how we feel, how we express ourselves? We want witnesses to the walking, talking wonderfulness that is us, right?

Generally speaking, I’m much more comfortable when those witnesses are at a safe distance—across town, in another state, on another continent. Anywhere I’m not.

But I do know how necessary it is for a writer to participate in her own success, and readings are a valid way to get and keep your name out there. Also, in spite of some social anxiety, I can still be a teeny bit of a showoff. I guess all writers are.carol reading 2

Along with that bit of exhibitionism, we have to have a certain amount of self-confidence. Doing readings is one way to build it, a word at a time. I can think of nothing better than a successful reading to help in that building. That success doesn’t happen without the cooperation of all concerned—host, reader, audience.

Hosts generally know their role, and they do a beautiful job. When things go wrong, it’s often out of their control. Maybe the venue is public, and who could have known the night of the reading is also the night of somebody’s friend’s brother’s going away party? Maybe an integral part of the facility—air-conditioning, sound system, lighting—breaks down. It happens.

copy-of-kirkAudiences know their role, as well, and it consists of very few, but very important, actions. Avoid interrupting a reader by running back and forth to the bar, bathroom, or wherever. Be quiet during the reading. Your friend or partner can wait ten minutes to hear about the time you sat next to Meg Ryan on a cross-country flight. Don’t burst out laughing when a poet suddenly and inexplicably incorporates an operatic aria in the original Chinese right in the middle of a poem about sowing barley or something (although I have to say, that wasn’t my fault. You had to be there).carol_reading

In other words, show a little respect.

Readers should know their roles, but I sometimes think that because we are the “guests of honor,” so to speak, we feel that we don’t have to follow any rules, especially not unwritten ones. In other words, we can be pretty full of ourselves.

But there are rules. If nothing else, following them keeps you from looking like a complete jerk.

  • Adhere to the established time limits. They’re there for a reason. In the context of a group reading, what you have to say is no more important than what anyone else has to say. I don’t care who you are. If I’m good enough to be asked to read at a venue with you, I deserve the consideration of you abiding by the rules.
  • Don’t spend half your time providing a context for what you’re reading. If you can’t do that in a couple of sentences, maybe you should think about reading something else.
  • Don’t read and run. If you’re too busy to hang around to hear other readers, maybe you need to set up a reading just for you. And if you’re not fairly well-known or have an in with somebody, good luck with that.
  • If you do stay, give other readers your complete attention. Seriously. Just show them the respect they show you. This is especially true if you’re more well-known and/or have published more. Nothing makes writers happier than knowing they have the respect and admiration of a writer they And the very best writers I know are, not coincidentally, also the most generous with their time and consideration of fellow writers, especially those who still haven’t quite found their footing in the literary world.

It all comes down to that old Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Thinking that you’ve paid your dues and are above all that doesn’t make you a big star. It just makes you kind of a dick.



  1. You crack me up! I’m reading along thinking, hmmm I’ve never been to a reading. I should do that sometime. Then, I get to the last line. Too funny but very, effective use of the word “dick.”

    Ok, I need to add a rule for the hostess, or attending reader, or…Never wear the same dress you have on in the pic where you are sitting in the yellow chair, to a reading unless you know that there will only be straight women in attendance.

    If I were a straight man or gay woman, and I’m not, I would never hear a single word in the reading if you were wearing that dress. As a gay man I would feel distracted as well because the voice inside my head would be saying “she’s fun; we should party together!”

    Probably should conceal the wonderfully perky “girls.” Hope you’re giggling! Talk soon friend.

    Sent from my iPad


    Comment by Terry McDevitt — May 10, 2016 @ 8:21 am | Reply

  2. Hey Girl!
    I am so excited you graced us with another “Hussy” episode. You are so awesome and I would come to hear you read-if I knew when and where. (Sadly, I only know what I read in the TNW newsletter.) Julie does a sensational job, but doesn’t include non-members for some odd reason. Love and hugs Lottie


    Comment by pony tale girl — May 10, 2016 @ 11:05 am | Reply

  3. Interesting angle….I like this!!!


    Comment by Lily MIceli — May 12, 2016 @ 10:15 pm | Reply

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