A call went out via email for UC Riverside’s first MFA reading in partnership with the Calstate San Bernardino MFA program and a local bookstore. I didn’t not heed the call, because I’ve got fairly raspy voice (ongoing issues with a strained vocal cord) and was concerned no one would be able to understand what I was saying should I get nervous and my throat tense up. Then another email went out to a few more of us, they were still looking for readers and would really like someone to represent nonfiction, so I volunteered.
I had never participated in a reading before. I immediately started panicking about what I would read, convinced nothing was good enough. And things got real when the flyer for the event went out:
I finally decided I would read an excerpt from the first chapter of my memoir. I had just begun my first draft of this chapter the week before, so it was really rough. I reached out to a couple of friends in my cohort, day of the reading, and they happily shot over some revision suggestions.
There was a solid turnout for the reading, way more people than I had anticipated. The reading went in alphabetical order, so I had a while to wait before it was my turn. I had chosen a funny excerpt and was pleased that there was lots of laughter. It’s also great to get an immediate reaction to your work versus an after-the-fact discussion in workshop. It was like being curled up in your reader’s lap as they turn the pages of your book. My nervousness was somewhat quelled by the fact that it’s a reading, so your eyes are mostly on the page and there isn’t the same expectation that you maintain eye contact with the audience that comes with most activities involving a microphone. My voice held strong.
Afterward, I doled out kudos to the other readers whose work I admired and received some in return. Many people wanted to hear more; guess I’d better get to writing! I’m thankful that my MFA program provides this opportunity. The reading series is run by students and the team running it this year are off to a great start!