My first instinct is not. Always.
I don’t like readings. Never much have, and I suspect I never much will. It isn’t anything personal against the person reading, no commentary on the quality of their work or skill. I don’t like it when I do the reading. Perhaps even less. (Though when you get a bad reader or bad writing, that is always a very bad thing. When you get a bad reader of bad writing, that is, I’m pretty sure, represented by one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, it’s so nasty.)
But in the last two weeks I’ve had two positive experiences at public readings, which has me severely unsettled. I am not particularly fond of having my worldview challenged. But what happened is and cannot be denied. So I will do my best to deal with it.
Last… what was, it, Thursday?… I was Amy’s eye candy at a reading she attended for her creative nonfiction class taught by Kate Coles. (Yeah, that’s Utah State Poet Laureate Kate to you and me.) The reading was by Poet Jon Wilkens and Prose Writer/Poet Ander Monson. It was fun, which coming from me is HIGH praise. Both Wilkens and Monson were playful both in their poetry and with their delivery, which literally makes a good reading. They were talented both at writing and reading, which is also a must. As an added plus, my friend and SLCC instructor Brandon Alva did his master’s thesis under Ander Monson and was in the audience, which added a special dimension. It was a genuine good time, which kind of shook my comfort with and understanding of the universe.
Then today things really turned topsy turvy. I agreed to do a moderate (20-30 minute) reading with a little Q&A at the Dual Immersion Academy in Salt Lake. Believe it or not, it was my first ever public reading of GDC. Going in, you must understand that I’ve never seen a reading to kids of this age group (4th and 5th graders) go well. Never. Some authors have managed to pull of readings that weren’t catastrophic, and I’ve paid them great homage for the achievement. Most of the readings I’ve seen have been like slow motion car crashes—tragedy unfolding so slowly it manages to be boring. It’s just really hard to do a reading of any length for kids and to keep their attention. (Picture books work differently, by the way.)
So this morning my goal was not to have kids coming to fisticuffs on the floor out of sheer boredom. And you know what? It went well. I don’t mean I survived it. I mean well.
The kids were, all things considered, attentive for the entire reading.
They laughed numerous times; real, authentic laughter, not nervousness vomited out as a fake laugh.
At the end, they asked me to read more, even though time was up.
Then they asked a lot of questions, most of which were real questions they wanted answers to.
And when I left, they complained.
Add that together, and I can’t see any school of mathematics that allows me anything but a positive experience. Yeah, I know, how distressing is that? What am I left to believe in now that I doubt readings are just designed to suck?
Thanks to the Dual Immersion Academy, all the teachers, and especially the kids who attended. You guys were so awesome you’ve blown my mind a little bit, and I’m trying to regroup. Special thanks to Ms. Ramos, who spearheaded all this, and to my friend Anna, who got me in touch with the school. I want you all to know that I forgive you for upturning my nice little all-figured-out world.