Public readings in our writers' group are usually quite cozy. It's mostly just us, members of the group, one or two relatives and random passers by.
But not this time.
I stopped counting the number of participants at 50.
And unlike in the past, we did not just read our stuff while sitting comfortably in our chair.
This time there was a definite speaker's stand with a microphone.
The one who read had to work his/her way in to the front of everyone and read standing by the wooden stand and speak to the microphone while facing the audience.
Oh. My. Stage. Fright.
But I survived!
And managed to get some words of honest appreciation, too.
Here how it worked.
The theme this time was "Garage sale". Eleven members of the group had one item. These items were made into a list. The task was to write anything in your style and plot of preference. There was a word count limit and you had to incorporate your item plus at least 4 other items from the list.
All the items were displayed for the audience to see the whole time.
My item was a pair of rubber boots. Other items included a perfume bottle, a set of poker cards in a box; a weaving loom, a diary, a painted Maria with Jesus and so on.
I recall a short surrealistic poem about the contents of a room; a mysterious short story about a weeping Maria in a Greek hotel; a funny short piece about a Soviet spy during WW II; and a dramatic piece that involved the recalling and erasing of memories while developing photographs in a dark room. There were 20 readings.
My piece was about an elderly couple. At the beginning the man chops wood kindlers for the stove, but the lady calls him inside and dislikes his cutting the wood in those rubber boots. She insists that chopping firewood in those boots is silly, for the small waste falls into the boots making the job uncomfortable. The argument turns into a heated one. At the end the man sets the set of poker cards flying into the air by kicking the box. Finally he returns to chopping, to his axe and keeps wearing the boots and lets the small wate fall into the boots.
With this short story I kind of looked into our future with my husband :) I wanted to write about arguing. Write an unpleasant conversation. Or something unsettling. Because this is what I usually DON'T write about. I sort of stepped out of my comfort zone and wrote about interaction between partners. I voiced their negative feelings towards each other. I also wanted to show their frustration. At the end of the day though, I don't think these two truly dislike one another.
One commenter asked me whether I spied on some elderly neighbours. She found my characters so alive that she said I must have eavesdropped some of their conversation.
Another commenter said that my piece was among the best reads this evening and she was able to imagine a complete novel around this couple.
More than one commenter said that part of the success of my story came from the way I presented it.
Well, I did rehearse it like 2 or two times, but I thought I was uneasy with the microphone, with speaking behind a formal speaker's stand. Wow. A success :) I mean I thought the story was among my better ones, but getting praised for presentation? That surprised me :)