Last night I went to my first Open Mic. It’s surprising that it’s my first one since they’ve happened at least once a quarter all year, but this was the first one I actually knew about beforehand. Anyway, I went without anything prepared (just some old drafts) and wasn’t planning on reading. Of course that didn’t turn out. Since friends were there, I was signed up to read despite my protestations. To make it worse, I realized two things about my story as I got up there to read: 1. All I had was the old draft with some awkward sentences; 2. I had submitted this story to the magazine that was being launched that night (which is why there was an open mic) and it had been rejected. And now I was reading it for them.
Oh well. I got through it. I even did my best to speak up, although I never lifted my eyes from the paper. And at the end there was applause (we’ll pretend they didn’t clap at the end of every reading). But the whole experience got me thinking:
Who invented readings? Aren’t the majority of authors introverts who shy away from speaking in front of large groups of people? Why do we expose ourselves to such torture?
Of course, I realized very quickly that readings are one of the first forms of advertising for writers. But in this day and age with all the blogging, tweeting, facebooking, interviews, contests, etc. that authors do to get their names out there, are readings still even necessary?
My conclusion is yes. Although personally I much prefer reading over listening, readings are still really important. After all, there is nothing stronger than a personal connection with an author. A few years ago I got to hear a bestselling author (who shall remain nameless) give a talk about writing. He came off arrogant and pompous and I was glad I didn’t have to hear him again. Still, I felt obligated to try one of his books. The writing was stiff and I couldn’t get through the first chapters. Another reason for me not to like him. Yet whenever I see a book of his in the bookstore, I get excited and point it out to whoever I’m with and say: “I saw him speak!” And most of the time I even take the book off the display to see what it’s about. So if an author who gives me a great sense of dislike can still make me look at his book in the store, just think how powerful an author who meet the people who actually like them.
I guess I’ll have to go to the open mics next year and get some practice reading out loud.