Reading in front of people makes me feel like I’m going to asphyxiate. It’s almost as bad as giving improvisational speeches. I hope I never have to be a best man. In spite of all this, I treasure a masochistic enjoyment of reading to crowds of highly critical strangers and all of the minor seizures that come with it.
Over the weekend I did it for the first time in two years and it was thrilling, much like running away from an explosion in slightly tattered formal wear.
When the literary arts journal Gigantic Sequins advertised a story slam at the Stonewall Inn to benefit the Al Forney Center, I wanted to be part of it. Dave and I went into the city, got some excellent falafel, and joined in on the story slamming festivities.
The storytellers shared novel bits, creative essays, and short stories and I learned about Norwegian food and bikram yoga and New Jersey. In the tradition of American television, there were three judges who critiqued each piece and gave gratuitous fashion advise.
I wish I talked to more people rather than clinging to my table and my Dave – next time, perhaps, I will give myself a quota. (i.e., Today I will talk to five strangers no matter how sweaty it makes my palms.) I did get the chance to speak to Ian and Kimberly Ann from Gigantic Sequins and they were very kind and welcoming even though I was the only person in the room (save Dave) that they didn’t know.
When my turn came up, I read this story that I posted on my blog last year. (Dave, always incredibly supportive, let me read it to him a hundred times on the subway.) The spotlight blinded me from seeing any crowd in front of me at all, which was perhaps why I didn't begin the reading with my customary asthma attack. At the end, I was at the mercy of the three judges.
“I have to admit, I was skeptical when you came onstage. I mean, orange and sea foam? Not many people can pull that one off, and yet here you are, pulling it off – well, not really, but your writing redeems you,” said the judge with the mustache.
After the readings, I was picked to be one of the three finalists by the judges. As a finalist, I received two tickets to the Museum of Sex and an egg shaped sex toy that was very much made for a man. Our fates were left up to the audience, who applauded loudly to choose a finalist. It was a close call, but in the end, I won.
At this point I was too excited to act like a human. I was a blushy mess, unable to accept the prize gracefully. I kept kissing Dave on the cheeks, and when another reader tried to kiss me on the cheek I thought he was trying to whisper something in my ear. Note to everyone: Never try to kiss me on the cheek, there is no telling how I will interpret your body language.
Thus, I left the story slam with Museum of Sex tickets, a men’s sex toy, one hundred dollars, and a whole lot of love for Gigantic Sequins. (This is hardly surprising. A gerbil with an automatic hand gun is featured on the cover of the most recent issue.) I think every once in a while I have to do something that makes me feel uncomfortable.
Check out Ian's pictures from the event here.