On Giving Public Readings

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I’ve been doing this writing thing long enough that I’ve had a few occasions to read my work in public. It’s a daunting experience, and I thought I’d talk a bit about what it means to me to read my work to an audience.

First of all it’s a crucial part of any writer’s career. I had a professor in grad school who thought it was so important, she made everyone in her classes read two to three pages of new work aloud every single week. You see your work differently when you read it out loud. You catch mistakes, you notice areas of resonance or significance or emphasis you may not have caught before. Most importantly, you connect with the rhythm of the piece. And aside from all that, she made the pragmatic point that, if you want to be a working writer, you have to get used to reading your work in front of people.

As it turns out, once I get up in front of a crowd, I’m actually a pretty good live reader. But for the entire day leading up to an event, I am a quivering, terrified, dysfunctional wreck. Even though I’ve done this ten or fifteen times, I still can’t eat all day before I give a reading, and I inevitably need a couple of whiskeys to ease my nerves before I get on stage.

On the plus side, participating in readings that come with a theme or a prompt has led me to create some really interesting work that I would not have otherwise. If you don’t believe me, check out the first and especially the second reading I did for Write Club San Francisco.

Now, you might be about to ask, “Justin, is this blog post a long-winded way of publicizing the reading you’re giving this weekend?” OF COURSE!

I got invited to read at Lit Crawl Brooklyn this year, something I’m beyond giddy about, especially since I lived in San Francisco for years and never got invited to read in the Lit Crawl in the Mission, even though the Bay Area literary community is famous for supposedly being open and welcoming. (I have thoughts on this that would get me in trouble, so let’s just move on.) I’m reading on Saturday at Grumpy Bert (82 Bond Street in Boerum Hill) during Phase I, between 5 and 5:45 p.m. The reading is hosted by Lost Lit, and there will be food and drink afterwards, so come down and support the literary arts, and of course have some drinks with me. What could possibly be more fun?

UPDATE:

The reading went really well! Thanks to everyone who came out. Here’s a picture:

What it looks like when Justin gives a reading

What it looks like when Justin gives a reading

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