Two nights, two readings, two launch parties, two great independent bookstores with every seat taken and people standing among stacks and in doorways.
Some words to describe this: exciting, gratitude-inducing, terrifying.
I’d been given variable advice about reading my work: read for twenty minutes, then take questions and read something else at the end; don’t read for more than five minutes at a stretch, and punctuate it with entertaining banter; read whatever you have to in order to give them a sense of the book; practice, practice, practice.
Of course, I have known for months that my readings would start this Wednesday. And I didn’t take vacation this week, so Monday night, there I was book in hand, flipping back and forth among the stories, the panic rising.
What to read, what to read…?
Worse: entertaining banter? About what? Me? How horrifying…The book? Both?
Actually, I’m not bad a entertaining banter, and I’m a teacher so I can stand in front of groups and speak. Still, it seemed that at the very least, I should know what I would say the moment the reading started, but I didn’t – and that felt very much like flying to a distant and very different country for a vacation, arriving exhausted and stressed, and not having a hotel room for the first night.
What to read? I settled on a new bride approach: something old, something new, something blue, or the literary equivalent thereof: the entirety of one short story, one borrowed form story but mostly standard narratives, two patient stories and two doctor stories, young people and old people and in-between people. Reading long enough to engage but not so long as to bore. Off the cuff entertaining banter related to the book and me and medicine and writing and health care and diversity and I’m not even sure what else…
Three lessons learned:
1) all the advice above is good; an amalgam of it is better
2) you can look up or you can read but if you look up often while reading you will occasionally stumble on words
3) the problem with entertaining banter, even when successful, is that it’s hard to recall what one said so at my next reading, I will again arrive in a distant land without a hotel reservation – but thrilled to be there….