Apparently there's a big poetry scene in some of the bigger towns and cities nearby (but not in Small Town, unfortunately), and there are a lot of poetry readings and open mic nights hosted by local coffee shops and bars.
I heard about a monthly open mic night at a bar in a big city that's a considerable driving distance away from Small Town, but at this event people can read whatever they want, not just poetry. I've never been really good at poems. If I wrote a poem, it'd be like this: Roses are red, violets are blue. Donald Trump is destroying this country, and I blame you. (And then I'd make copies and tape them to the doors of all the Trump supporters.)
I decided to drive out to the big city and read a flash fiction piece I wrote a few years ago that I've always been proud of but has never been published. I've never read my work in front of anyone, except in writing classes.
Part of me wished that I'd brought at least a few of my friends from Small Town with me, but somehow it felt like it might be easier to read in front of strangers rather than people I knew. My writing is very personal to me, and it's something I keep secret from most people, whereas reading in front of strangers is different because then I never have to see them again if they don't like it. On the other hand, I was afraid of negative reactions from the audience that night, and I was tempted to turn back and drive home. But I kept driving forward.
The bar turned out to be a brewery, so that it looked like one big warehouse with just a small section cordoned off for the bar. When I came in, there were several rough-looking older guys playing pool and drinking beer but no women there, and they all looked at me curiously as I came in. I wasn't sure if I had the right place at first, though I had arrived early for the reading. Being there in an unfamiliar place with a bunch of men I'd never met made me wish I could say, "If any of you come near me, I will not hesitate to kick you in the crotch." (You may call me paranoid, but I did just spend the past several years living in a big city where people tried to mug or attack me on a regular basis.)
But none of the guys tried to hurt me, and soon, more people (including women) arrived. Most of the people attending the reading looked like they were hipsters, the kind of people who would groan and kick me (though their skinny jeans might cause them to trip and fall down instead of kick me) if they knew how many Britney Spears playlists are on my iPod (and yes, I have more than one, and I'm "sorry not sorry" because she's FABULOUS).
I signed up to read my story, though a part of me still wanted to run out of there before it was too late. When the host called out my name, my hands shook as I looked down at the pages I'd written.
As I read my story, people smiled and laughed at several points, which was exactly the response I was hoping for. When I finished reading and sat back down, the host of the reading said, "Duuude! You need to freakin' come BACK to the next reading, seriously!" Afterwards, several people, including other writers who also read their work, approached me to tell me that they were impressed by my writing and that I did a good job.
I felt relieved that I had finally done what I'd been wanting to do for a long time. I felt pleased that other people liked my story, and I felt happy to be around other writers who were reading their work. I felt excited to go home and write another story. And another one, and another one...
What about you? Do you feel more comfortable at the idea of sharing your work with strangers or with people you know?
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