Learning to Read

One dark and stormy night, a few years back, an editor called me. “So we are going to publish your story but we want you to read at some events.”

“Okay.”

Rah-rah to being published but ‘okay’ is not a good negotiation tactic. A vague ‘okay’ can lead to all kinds of shenanigans. And it did.

“Do you want to read in New York?”

“Okay.”

Again, not so good a response. My writing group said I should have asked for more information. A phone call was placed.

“Uh, excited about reading in New York. But where exactly will I be reading?” I had dreams of exciting but small literary salons or at least an independent bookstore.

“At Madame X. The place holds ongoing book readings. We are so excited to get in there.”

Somewhere alarm bells went off. Madame X did not sound like an independent bookstore or a salon. A saloon maybe …

I packed my carry-on luggage and made my way to New York. Checked into my hotel then had a lovely visit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Soon it was time to make my way to the book reading. Checked my outfit specifically bought for the event. No visible panty lines. No errant bra straps. Not too much cleavage. No trailing toilet paper.

I walked to the reading. Seedy. Really nonliterary. Looking around – Madame X looked like a very dark saloon.

I went inside. Vampire dark with no one there except the bartender. She sent me upstairs. The second floor was a place of blatant bra straps with no visible panty lines – it was apparent that the patrons were not wearing panties. Either sex.

I was going to read a short story about pickles at a New York sex club. Erotic tarot card readings in the rear … of the club. A politician’s mistress talking about her sexploits on the stage. A man telling a hilarious story about hiring an escort from Craigslist. I followed the woman doing a wonderful imitation of vaginal farts.

“Up next, Trudi Taylor reading her short story about pickles.”

I wondered if it was too late to pretend laryngitis, stroke out or develop a transient case of Tourette’s syndrome. Straightening my shoulders, I climbed onto the stage and dropped my pages. There was a small gasp from the front row.

Oh fuck! Looking around the audience, I launched into my story. Somewhat crazed, pissed, and overdressed. My perky orange Banana Republic sundress with the matching argyle sweater, sleeves artfully pushed up to my elbows, matching tasteful handbag and sensible shoes (Dansko clogs) were a tad out of place in the sea of bulging spandex, painful looking piercings, and barely concealed nipples. The audience went back to their conversations, readings, gropings, whatever.

Somehow I made it through the reading. Clomped off the stage without tripping over my own feet. A couple of fellow writers commented on the humor of the story and urged me to keep writing. I needed a drink. A double. Good bloody grief.

Later that night walking back to the hotel, I wondered what the universe had been trying to teach me. Ah hah!

I am passing on the epiphany. When you are asked to do a reading:

*Do your research. Find out where you are going to read. In detail.

* YouTube prior readings at the place. Really. It will help.

* Dress appropriately. I am not sure BR is ever appropriate.

* And NEVER, EVER follow a woman doing an imitation of vaginal farts.

Go forth and read your work!

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