Proof That I am Writing.

“Hey, Amelia?”  His eyes locked on hers in an unexpected gesture of a closeness they didn’t yet share.

Her jaw tightened, stifling a smile. “You know that’s not my name, right?”

“Wait, what?”

“Amelia. You said Amelia.”

“Isn’t Amy short for Amelia?”

“Nope. Just Amy.”

“Are you sure?”

“About my own name? Yeah, pretty certain.”

“Well, I mean yeah. Obviously. It’s just that I’ve always pictured you as an Amelia.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“I had no idea.” She picked at a hang nail. “You could call me that if you want to.”

“What? No, if it’s not your real name what would be the point?”

“It could be my nickname. It’s not a bad name. I could get used to it.”

“I can’t just decide to call you by another name! Who does that?”

“Everybody calls you ‘Nine’.”

“That’s not the same thing, Amy.” He looked away.

“So, we’re back to Amy, then?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Did I ruin the moment?”

“Completely.”

“Are you crushed?”

“A little.”

“That’s too bad.”

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The Open Mic Experience.

A number of times I’ve been asked to go to speaking engagements. It was also suggested to me that if I ever complete this novel I’m writing and gets it published (please allow me to dream such a dream, here) that I will probably have to do a public reading–or 10.

I momentarily reconsidered ever writing another word.

I mean geez, is all this work I’m doing going to result in me doing something I loathe the very thought of?

Writing is a solitary event. I sit alone in my office, or chair, or bookstore, or whatever and I write, write, write. I agonize for a while, and finally I push send. You all are free to read, or not read it, as you see fit. For all I know your heart could be full of admiration and love for my words, or you could roll your eyes and stick your tongue out at everything I shared. But, whatever your reaction, I don’t have to know–well, unless you comment with it anyhow.

Reading something aloud is much more personal and intimate.

I spoke with a friend (thanks, Kathryn!) of mine about my concerns. She asked what was it, exactly that bothered me. As most of out fears are often buried beneath a layers of gut reactions and avoidances, I had to really give it some thought. So, she was kind enough to play therapist for me (well, as much as we could manage with six kids running around!) and so I recognized that I am a person who likes to read people. In fact, I think it’s my biggest help in developing my writing. But, not being able to get a read on someone unnerves me.

When I’m standing in front of people reading, it shuts down my ability to get a read on ANYONE in an entire room full of people who are all staring at me.

It goes without saying that being able to pick up on vibes and “read”  a situation can be a very helpful skill to have at times. It can, however, be very burdensome. I tend to take on the emotions of those around me quite easily. Just as much as I feel the positivity of their emotions, the negativity of their feelings will often become my own inner dialog.

I think it’s about time I learn to find a way to simply exist within a situation without feeling the need to “read” it.

So, when a couple of friends wrote me within the same hour to tell me I just had to read something at this local woman’s open mic night, I knew it was time.

I agonized about what to read for an entire week and then I finally decided to rework some of the wording on a post I made for this blog called “Remembering Ed”, to give it a better spoken flow.

When I walked into the restaurant where the event was planned, I was shocked to see that upwards of 50 women showed up! I had mentally prepared for 10 or 20, tops. I felt my knees go weak. But, I sucked it up.

I found out I was number 22 on a list of 24 performers.

Now, I’ve seen several open mics, and I’ve been to a few readings. But, again, this was the first time I was reading so it felt all brand-new.

One, by one these very brave woman start their various performances; songs, instrumentals, nigunim, comedy routines–even a belly dancer. Some were newbies who were clearly trying to overcome their own nervousness, and some were quite natural in front of a mic. It goes without saying that I fell into the former category, but at least I wasn’t alone. However, after about 10 or 15 performances it became clear that what I brought to read was not perfect for the high energy of the group. I briefly considered bailing. But, as I was stuck at a table, surrounded in every corner by several woman–who themselves were surrounded by even more woman, I knew there was just graceful way out.

And then, it was my turn. I wasn’t brave enough to do the reading without a paper. Really, that paper was the only thing assuring I didn’t go totally blank and have to resort to reciting the first poem I ever wrote, in the third grade:

“Frogs eat flies,
frogs eats fries.

We don’t eat flies,
but we eat fries.”

(I won the much-coveted front and center location on the class bulletin board for that one, guys.)

Finally, it was the last page. And then the last sentence. And the last word. Then the audience, graciously clapped so I walked off the make-shift stage–which was really about a 2×2 foot space with a chair and a mic–and made my way, slowly, through a sea of women to take my seat.

On the way, I was met by about 10, maybe more, people thanking me. Touching my arm. Rubbing my back, encouragingly. Perfect strangers trying to embrace me.

And I froze.

I had no idea that what I read would illicit this sort of reaction, despite it’s somber feel. And I sure didn’t expect for people to think they needed to wrap their arms around me over it. I was completely stupefied.

Once more, I considered running out of the door–but again, a sea of wall to wall women prevented that. So I just smiled and I sat down, feeling a little exposed. Like, maybe I’d shown all of my cards. Shown too much. Like when you wear that skirt that’s just a little too tight, but you’re sure that you can pull it off so long as you don’t try and like sit on the floor or do a cartwheel or something. But, then your at the store and you squat to pick something up and suddenly your seam rips, and your entire backside is showing and in that moment all you can think is that you would do anything to go back in time and have a do-over.

When the event was over, I was stopped by five or six more woman who wanted to offer their feelings and hugs and I went through the motions of smiling and hugging back. I realized my story was a bit sad, yes, but I also felt it was a good–albeit truthful–remembrance of someone who meant a lot to me. Someone I am really sad to have lost, but also someone I want to remember.

But, all in all, it was a really good first experience, even though I did get a much different reaction than I had thought. And I would probably consider bringing two stories in the future–and deciding which to read after getting to know my audience a little first.

The Report

Rear view of class raising hands

It was the day for our fifth grade class to give their oral reports. “Oral report”, I had just learned, meant I would be expected to give a speech in front of the whole class, and not a briefing on the condition of my teeth. It was too bad, I thought, because I had a great check-up last time, which made me really happy because my dentist was pretty awesome. He had a Parrot named Flossy and let you wear these cartoon character glasses while he worked on your teeth. Once my mom had to cancel an appointment because it interfered with a meeting at work, and I’m not too proud to admit that I cried.

“Who wants to go first?”, she asked.

Several eager hands shot up into the air.

I slunk down as far as could into my seat, wishing I were at the dentist.

“I think you should go first!”, my gray-haired teacher turned to me and smiled.

I looked at the papers I had been clutching in my hands, wrinkled and damp with the sweat from my palms.

I stood reluctantly, slowly, and began to walk up to the front of the classroom.

Shuffled my papers,  took a deep breath, and quietly began,

“Matrin Luther King Jr was bor—”

“Speak up, please! We can not hear you.”, Mrs. Treffry called out in a sing-song voice from her little perch on the radiator at the back of the room.

I cleared my throat and began again.

Martin Luther King Jr. was bor—”

“Try moving your hand away from you face, that way we can hear you waaaay back here”, she stood with her right hand holding a stack of papers and her left cupped behind her ear, pulling it forward, as if straining to hear.

Suddenly I became aware of this stray hand, this alien hand, hovering awkwardly around my face–some place between my eyes and my mouth.

I pulled it down to my side. The class giggled and I could feel my hand wanting desperately to resume its previous position.

“Begin again, please. We are waiting.”

“MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WAS BOR—”

“Now, you are yelling dear. There is no need to yell. Just speak up.”, she sighed.

My face flushed. I locked my shaking knees.

Martin Luther King Jr was bor—”

“Yes, Martin Luther King Jr was born! Geez! Tell us something we don’t already know!”, Chris heckled from the second row, catching me off guard.

My papers dropped to the floor. I felt my knees go weak as I leaned down to pick them back up.

“Mrs Treffry, she’s never going to finish her report! Can I go now? Puleeease?”, begged an impatient teacher’s pet sitting in the front row.

“No, Shareen. Wait your turn”, she replied before returning her gaze to me. “Now. Please continue”.

“Um… Martin Luther King Jr. was bor— it’s okay. I really don’t mind if she goes first. I can wait”, I suggested to Mrs. Treffry. Hoping she would see the desperation in my eyes and excuse me.

“No, no. You can be excused when you are done. Continue please.”

I exhaled sharply as a dizziness began to make my head ache.

“Martin Luther King Jr. was born… … …”

“Yes? Go on! We are all listening.”, Mrs Treffrey tapped her foot.

“Martin Luther King was born…

And then he died…

It was really, really sad.”

Avoiding her frowing face, I lowered my head, walked back down the aisle, took a seat, and shoved the three page report I had written into my desk. Tears began to spill over my bottom lashes.

Mrs. Treffry sighed loudly.

“Shareen, you may go now.”

All The Details. All of ‘Em!

photo(1)

Blogging about writing is great–when you’re the writer. But, in my experience, it totally sucks as the reader.

Yeah, I mean sure I want to hear about how your story/novel/poem is coming along. I’d love to know that you’re making progress. That you got signed. That your book will be on shelves this week. That you just hit some Best Sellers List and were invited to this party with all these amazing authors who know you by name and now they are making your story into a Lifetime movie. (No need to get cocky, there buddy.)

Yes, of course I want to celebrate with you over your progress!

But, to be honest, I don’t really care if that one character is giving you problems, or if you’ve got a wicked case of writer’s block.  And if you think I’m going to read your 1000 word essay about why and how you choose your setting for the first scene–eh, I’m not. I mean I will try to read it, so I can not feel like a total ass when you ask me what I thought about it later–but by the first paragraph I will be thinking about what there is to snack on, or how long it is until I need to switch over my laundry. Or, more likely, I’ll start thinking about my own story that I’m working on.

It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just that… I don’t care quite as much as you do. You know?

Writing is fun. I mean it’s work. And it’s frustrating. And annoying. And sometimes makes you want to scream your face off because you can’t get this dialog between Jordan and Suzanne working like you need it to. And just ugh, you know? Over all though, it’s a pretty enjoyable job. But, see–it’s a lonely kind of enjoyment. Like when we get that dialog just right, and we’re on top of the freaking world, and we can’t stop reading it, and we just want to tell someone how freaking awesome we are because we just dominated that fucking scene with every bit of writerly awesomeness we could muster, and then we start enthusiastically explaining all of this to the person sitting nearest to us and we slowly watch their smile turn into a glazed look of complete and utter boredom.

Just ask my poor husband.

I mean yeah, he cares. Of course he cares!

Just not quite as much as I do.

But, you know when he will really care? When I have it all written out, in a book, in which the dialog that I have been prattling on and on and on about finally finds some context for him.

It is for this very reason that my blog is rather quiet these past few weeks. I’m working on a book (KH, pooh, pooh, pooh) and I am enmeshed in this whole world that only currently lives in my head. I am in the thick of intertwining story lines and character bios. And literally the only thing I have to write about is this scene I am so freaking excited about and how much research I’ve had to do on several topics to get the characters just so. And OMG it’s awesome. I mean, like super ridiculous, perfect. PERFECT!

(Well, in my head, anyhow.)

But, I just simply cannot stand to bore you with all of the mind-numbing details.

So, I decided to just post a picture of a recent day trip to DC instead.

You’re welcome.