I participated in a student reading yesterday. It was for Cal Day, an open house for future UC Berkeley students. Each creative writing workshop class (there are apparently 5 this semester) asked for two volunteers to read. I was one of the readers for my class.
I had never read any of my nonfiction before. I’ve read my poetry once at a school reading (before I transferred), and I remember being in this zone of nervous confidence.
First, I have to say that I’m annoyed by several facets of readings: the people, who in their brief bio (which we had to write so that it could be read by the facillitator), write about all the awards they’ve received and the publications they’ve had work in. This upset me because it isn’t like this reading is anything special. Who cares where you were published or what prizes you won? Do you think that these prospective students even know what you’re talking about? That part felt like an extraordinary popularity contest. I’m not even jealous because some of these people are so pretentious. I just feel sorry for them.
The second peeve is that one person read his short story in the most theatrical voice ever. Seriously man, just because you got waitlisted at UC Irvine (and ultimately rejected), doesn’t give you the power to read your work in a laughably overwrought manner. At first I thought he was just reading it ironically, that it would change at the end of the story. But no. Seriously man, if you think your work is so fucking good because you paid someone $300 to edit it for you and they said it was of publishable quality, take a good look at yourself. You won’t even accept criticism from friends who have your best interest at hand. Such bullshit.
So, after about eight people had read, it was my turn. We had a 7 minute time slot each, so if you had a work that would take longer than 7 minutes to read, you should have stopped reading it.
I got up there and it was great. I realize that I’m a much better reader now than I was several years ago. I think this is partly because I have much more confidence in myself, especially because I’m going to grad school for this, and I’ve connected to my writing better. I read my entire 8.5 page piece, but unfortunately didn’t stop at 7 minutes. I should have stopped, but I didn’t, because this piece really cannot be stopped in the middle. By the way, it was “Some Lesser Dread,” which includes bits of Hegel.
Afterwards, I was worried about running over the limit, but no one seemed to mind. I still feel bad about it.
Later, I read the blog of one of the other readers, a middle aged woman with delusions of grandeur. She seems to think that anything she doesn’t understand isn’t worth listening to, and calls it pretentious. I’m sorry I write about philosophy and incorporate literary theory into my writing. It isn’t because I’m pretentious, it’s because I had to think about Hegel for a week, and I had to come to terms with myself and whatever else is in the essay. Also, I’m sorry I used footnotes. I figured those wouldn’t be too pretentious, considering they’re just random shit about whatever they’re referencing.
I mean, I’m really not concerned with negative opinions of my work. You can’t please everyone. The thing I’m concerned about is that this person is prejudiced against me for no reason at all. I actually liked her piece, but after reading what she wrote about me and other people at the reading, who were my friends, I think she’s a fucking hypocrite.
Also, I need to stop reading softly, almost in a monotone. Although I happen to think that my reading is expressive, and not theatrical, maybe it isn’t expressive enough.