I think it’s fair to say that my generation of women writers was done a great disservice by Carrie Bradshaw. In addition to making us believe that the writing life involved a great deal of lolling about and twirling beautifully coiffed hair rather than actually laying down words on a manuscript, she of Sex and the City fame made us think that book release parties and readings were occasions to wear sparkly dresses and fabulous shoes, and that waiters would walk around well appointed rooms to hand out cocktail shrimp on skewers and champagne in lovely little flutes.
I’ve never seen a sparkly dress or a coconut shrimp, at least in the poetry circuit. And lolling? Please. Real-life writerly events are as different from the predictable Sex and the City scenes as you can get. Tiny shrimp or no, I happen to think that reality trumps TV, particularly because, in actual writer events, you never know what’s going to happen.
In the past week, I had the chance to give two readings here in my hometown of Seattle, first at Beacon Bards at Beacon Hill’s The Station, where I read with my old friend Caleb Barber, another Red Hen Press poet (if you’ve not seen Caleb read live, you should really watch read him here). When I showed up at the venue, I thought, well, if five people fit in here, it will be a miracle. I have a running theme of anxiety that involves no one showing up at a reading except for me and perhaps a feral animal that wanders in the door. I had serious concerns that this event might make that nightmare come true. But in the minutes before the reading, in manner of a clown car, a serious, standing-room-only crowd of people showed up to hear some poems. And the crowd was fantastic–everyone seemed to truly enjoy themselves, and to appreciate the poetry. The open mic that followed Caleb’s and my reading was fantastic as well, and I met a great many new members of the Seattle poetry scene.
Last night, I had the opportunity to read at one of my favorite places in Seattle–Richard Hugo House. Over the years, I’ve attended many a literary event at Hugo House, so being able to read from my own book in that wonderful space was a real treat, and it’s always exciting to read together with Jeannine Hall Gailey. Yesterday, we had an eclectic audience, from folks who’d been dining out across the street and happened to pop in to some budding teenaged poets who came to glean some inspiration. We were two women down for our four-woman reading, however, when one of our featured writers injured her leg, and another seemed to simply vanish into the ether. Rather than disappoint the audience, I put my dear friend and writing partner, Tanya Chernov, in the hot seat. My husband quickly downloaded her memoir, A Real Emotional Girl, onto his mobile kindle app, and Tanya gave a wonderfully professional, moving pinch-hit reading from the book after Jeannine and I had read from our poetry. (Let this be a lesson to you, writers: always walk around with copies of your book. You never know when your friends will make you get on stage with zero notice.)
As oddball as last night’s event programming may have been, there’s nothing quite like seeing where the vicissitudes of the writer’s life will lead. I’ll take that over sequins and coconut shrimp any day.
What does my next reading–at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Books at 7pm on June 25–have in store? I’m looking forward to finding out.