*tap tap* Is this thing on?…

Last night I attended and read at what’s officially my first ever public open mic night reading. I’ve read a handful of pieces before in smaller, intimate groups at different writing conferences I’ve attended. Always surrounded by people that I know in some facet, even if only for a few moments, but always enough so that I know they’re going to be… nice? Last night though, was different… I arrived early in hopes of finding like-minded strangers interested in conversation… instead I sat alone, gripping my few printed pages and watching the podium and microphone in front of me as it grew a tail, fangs, horns, and leering yellow eyes… A group of strangers began arriving, gathering in the lower level of a local bookstore, all of them chattering eagerly with each other, making the monster before me grow even larger, and the knots in my stomach tighter, as I realized these people all knew one another. They knew each others style, voice, thoughts, opinions, and humor – whereas I, a tattooed trollope, had wandered aimlessly, naively into their lair, stupidly thinking that I might fit in.

Just as I was reacquainting myself with the nearest exit route I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to find a familiar face. The face of a friend from high school, 12 years ago, recently reacquainted, there to show her support for me. *sigh* You know who you are, and you both rescued me from a night of awkwardness suffered alone, and at the same time cemented the fact that I could not escape. I now had no choice but to follow through on my commitment to bare my still naked and quivering soul to these judgemental strangers.

I was further down the list, allowing me the opportunity to fully commit to my nervousness, and to lose myself in utter confusion at what appeared to be a night devoted fully to poetry written quite eloquently in Klingon, while I waited for my name to be called. Eventually it was, and as is my habit I made excuses for the piece of writing I was going to share before even daring to make eye contact with any of the rabid beasts in the crowd. No doubt at the point, already having noticed that I am a stranger, and not one of them. I read my piece, a short story, my first ever attempt at fiction; a piece that I recently shared at a small writers conference I attended to good response on the validity and thoroughness of my “voice.” Last night however, the room was silent, and I lost my place on a few occasions simply because I wasn’t sure that I was actually reading aloud to the room, or if I might be awkwardly standing there, in front of the crowd, making no sound at all – simply rereading the words to myself in my own inner monologue. When I finished there was a quiet whisper of golf clapping as I zeroed in on my destination, my empty chair 3 rows from the back of the room.

Luckily, these strangers must be used to having a newbie such as myself mistakenly wander in off the street on occasion, because they were careful to refrain from eye contact, or any other form of communication that would require us to speak. And before I knew it, another poet had taken the stage, sharing a rhyme about topics I still have yet to realize. And then another, this one speaking of anger, loss, rage, and abandonment. A mere moment passed, and just like that my voice had been forgotten. With that, the evening was over, and with my single friendly companion in tow, we hastily made our way to the exit. Bursting into nearly maniacal laughter the moment we made it back out, safely, into  the world we knew.

Once Upon A Time…

This past week Northwestern Washington received a rather large dumping of white stuff. And, which pleasing to school aged kids, seeing as how they’ve gotten the entire week off school, and still somehow find it enjoyable to be cold, wet, and lack sensation in their appendages. But, for us adults, a snow storm means shoveling, extra laundry, higher heating bills, and more groceries being utilized. For myself, the storm has been nasty enough that I was actually “snowed in” for a few days, leaving me with little to do aside from clean the house, bake, watch movies, read, and grow more and more depressed as the snow continued to fall. It took me two days, but I finally realized that this is the writing time I’ve been looking for, waiting for, hoping for… I’ve been so busy with small assignments from the local newspaper lately that I haven’t had time to even look at my own pieces, stuck in limbo for whatever reason.

So, yesterday afternoon, I curled up on the couch with the laptop and a mug of adult hot cocoa. I started with perusing the Poets & Writers site as they have a great list of Literary Magazines that are currently seeking submissions in all different genres of writing. I quickly started noticing though that the need for creative non-fiction/memoir/personal essays is lacking, while the desire for fiction, short and long, is overwhelming! I commiserated about this to a friend of mine, read: whined, and he promptly informed me that as a woman, I’m genetically equipped to be a better liar and more deceitful than most, so the ability to write fiction should really be like second nature to me! While I appreciate his honesty, and will spare you the sad story that is his dating history, I’ll summarize by saying he has horrific taste and I’m quite surprised he’s not jumped onto my plan of a one way ticket to a convent, well, monastery for him. Anyways, I explained to him that I can lie off the cuff like none other, pulling god know what out of god knows where at a moments notice when needed. After all I’ve worked (and excelled) in customer service, sales, and insurance for the past 12 years! But, that talent leaves me completely when I sit down and attempt to write something that isn’t true, something that I don’t know, something that I have to create.

Why is it that there’s such a huge difference for me do you think? I know that my inner editor, Agnes, is partially to blame. Her incessant mutterings and suggestions are bad enough when I’m writing about something that I have first hand knowledge of, but when I start creating something, from the ground up, piecing together a skeleton for a creature that only I know exists, *whew* her rants gets damn near unbearable!

So please, help me out here, if anyone’s actually reading this, and if any of you are fiction writers, or if you might just have a suggestion or two to toss my way – just about anything is appreciated! I’m setting a goal for myself to have a solid fiction piece, no word count restrictions, no topic as of yet, just that it has to be solid enough that I feel proud and hopeful in submitting it somewhere, prior to June… So let me have it, what’s the secret to bullshitting on paper?!?!?

* Sidenote: While googling for some sort of an image to include with this post I stumbled onto this site – Books of Adam – seriously?!!?!? If that guy can have THAT much creative energy, and pull some of that stuff out of his ass – I’ve got to be able to pull just a little tiny piece from my own – right?!?! And, I’ve now been reading through his site for 30 minutes, and will most likely be stalking him for possible inspiration – absolute hilarity!