It’s a terrifying thought, but before 2014 is over, I am going to get up in front of a group of strangers and read an essay I wrote. It will probably be about something super painful that I’ve attempted to blend with humor and retrospective wisdom. I am not sure what this will be or when this will happen, but I think about it a LOT these days.
Recently someone pointed out to me that I basically write an essay every couple of weeks for this blog. I’ve got nearly eight years of stories catalogued here (not that I can bear to read my own old posts, eeek). I can’t claim I have no material to work with.
I just went to a Story Club event that was half-performance, half-class. Four seasoned story tellers performed around the event’s theme of “What I Should Have Said Was…” Then after, my friends and I (and the other 17 people there) got to ask questions of some of the premiere live lit folks in Chicago. Our group was assigned to Keith Ecker, co-host of Guts & Glory and the new serialized story-based WBEZ podcast, PleasureTown. He answered our questions about essay writing, editing, and performing. He told us there is value in our perspectives, even if we worry a topic has been discussed before an audience already.
After the event, I told Story Club founder Dana Norris that I’d only put my name in the running for a Story Club open mic slot once before. I spent that entire night feeling terrified of having it drawn, and yet disappointed at the end of it all when it wasn’t. She said she knew the feeling.
“I’ll be sure your name gets drawn next time,” she said with stage wink.
I knew she was kidding but all I could do was give a nervously awkward, “Ha-ha-ha-ahhhhhhhhhh” and back away slowly toward the door in fear.
I’ve been watching live lit for more than two years now. I love the concept but I never saw myself as part of that scene, or somehow believed I couldn’t be. No one even once said, “This is my thing and not yours, and you can watch me do this but you cannot have it.”
But I thought it anyway, because I’m super insecure.
I saw proof of the opposite tonight, though: It’s an extremely welcoming community, and those who do it want anyone who is interested to do it, too.
A few weeks ago I submitted to Essay Fiesta after seeing a friend absolutely rock it last month, but I haven’t heard back from them. And I’ll try to get up the nerve to put my name in again at the next Story Club. In the meantime, I’m just going to keep editing my essays and practice performing them out loud. I hate public speaking, but my job is requiring me to do it more and more, and to work hard at getting better at it.
I got this. Who’s coming with me?