I am always terrified when I read aloud.

Just a quick post to say that the event in Stamford last night went swimmingly.

I got to hear some poets whose work was new to me and I read from Beware the Hawk, which is always nerve-wracking yet fun. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it. I’m pretty much always terrified whenever I get up to read, but by the time I leave the podium, I’m fine. I think it’s probably the same for everyone who reads. In fact, I think all authors who read from their work should wear a tee shirt that says “I’m  terrified” on the front. (Although on the back maybe it could say it “Now I’m fine,” or maybe the front of the tee shirt could change, like a mood ring or something, mid-reading. Unfortunately this is not technology that has been made available to me by Zazzle.)

Some old friends (including a former student and someone who reads this blog!) came out, and I met some new friends in the Stamford poetry community. I’ve been told that I simply must go to Curley’s Diner in Stamford for the poetry. Which is news to me. Previously, I went there for the fries. So that might be a cool field trip for me to make.

There are some photos of the event, if you’re interested, on my Facebook Author Page. Please, go over there and “like” me, even if you don’t actually like me.

Also, please vote to name the protagonist in Beware the Hawk. Voting will be over on Sunday, but I could be persuaded to keep the polls open for longer.

Oh and a correction. Remember how I said a few days ago that the Stamford Barnes & Noble used to be on a much-debated hole in the ground  downtown? I was mistaken. The hole in the ground is still there. it’s across the street from the B&N. I guess Stamford politicians are still talking about that hole in the ground.


A world-class event.

This won’t be a long post, nor will it be filled with my usual embarrassing personal revelations.  All I have to say here is that not only did the student reading last night go well, but I am in awe of my colleagues from the Fairfield University MFA program.

From the new student, who got up to read his work even though he’s never set foot on Enders, to the poet who riffed on Gertrude Stein like he was performing a guitar solo, to the memoirists who put their most private moments out there for us to see – you all rock. Hard.

Also rockstars? The students who didn’t read but showed up to support us, even though they have jobs, families and lives. And the student rep who organized the whole event, and who chose not to read, even though we would have welcomed a reading from her.

It’s really cool to be a part of this group of people.

Now, before this post gets cloying, I’m going to put an end to it. Just as  my colleague Steve Otfinoski put an end to some adorable sacrificial bunnies in his reading last night.

Update: This post is titled “A world class event” because that’s how we were described by the store manager during his in-store announcement. I thought I’d written that into this post but I must have edited it out. Whoops.

Deep breaths.

This Wednesday brings the fall semester student reading for my MFA program. I’m one of the readers, which is very cool, because I’m going to be trotting out my new novel. Still it’s terrifying, because I never know how I’m going to react when I get to that podium.

As I was explaining to a fellow student over the weekend, it all depends on the space.

I once did a reading with such a loud rushing in my ears that I couldn’t even hear my own voice. I was so relieved to get away from the podium that I left a pile of important papers on it, and only remembered them hours later. But then again, I did a reading this summer and I was fine. Granted, I had a drink in me before I got up to read, but I don’t actually think I needed the drink. That reading was in a smallish crowded room. The first, terrifying reading? That was done from the pulpit of a church.

Wednesday’s reading is being held in a Borders. And while I’ve spent many hours happily shopping in that space, I don’t know how I’ll feel reading there. I guess we will see.

Classroom stage fright

I teach at the local community college. But one day a year, at my department head’s behest, I teach three workshops of high school students at the college’s high school journalism symposium. This is my fourth year of teaching the workshop, and every year I kind of dread it.

I have to get up earlier than usual, I’m not used to dealing with high school students, and I never know what kinds of kids are going to be walking into my workshop. Plus, despite the fact that I’ve been standing in front of a class twice a week for the last few years, teaching gives me a wicked case of stage fright. Even if I’m teaching kids I’ve been working with for years.

So needless to say, the high school journalism symposium gives me palpitations. Every year, I’m awake all night before the event. I worry about everything. I’m not sure if what I say will be interesting to the students, I’m not sure if I’m going to make myself look like an idiot and I don’t know if I’m going to have a disciplinary problem on my hands.

But you know, it’s never as bad as I’m afraid it’s going to be.  I think I’ve only had two belligerent high schoolers in twice as many years. For the most part, they’re respectful, cooperative and fun. I’m almost always sad to see them leave at the end of my workshop.  They ask good questions. One of the best ones I heard today came from a student who has been on her high school newspaper a month. We were talking about interviews, and she asked me if I’m ever scared when I’m about to interview someone.

Yes, I told her. I’m always scared before an interview. Without exception. I get butterflies before I make a phone call. I have to take a deep breath before I go into someone’s office to ask them a few questions. I am always, always nervous. Because you never know what that interview might turn into.

It’s kind of like teaching, actually. And usually – like teaching – the interview goes way better than I thought it would.