I borrowed this cool sketch of Backspace Cafe from this website.
Can you say out of place?
For once, not me, at least not much. I was determined to do this.
I signed up two weeks ago via email to read. I had my 6 pages of thesis manuscript printed out, ready to go. And I had already decided, while driving the 30 minutes into Portland, that I didn't care if I looked like a middle-aged Mormon grandma. That's what I am.
Before I left, Mark asked me why I wanted to read. It's hard to put into words. It's not about attention. It's not about gaining respect from a group of writing peers. Everyone else there was in the Fiction MFA program, and I quite likely will not see them again (unless I go to more of these readings). For me, this reading was more about using my voice to articulate the hard things I am trying to write with my thesis. To say it.
Mark listened to me read my pages last night. Tonight he was tired and opted to stay home, which was fine, because I kind of needed to just go and do this thing on my own. It was raining really hard all the way into Portland. Dark. About halfway there, I started crying. I don't know--it was a mixture of feeling brave and vulnerable and determined and awkward all at the same time. I gave myself a little talking-to and kept driving.
Funny moment - when I found the cafe and a nearby parallel parking spot on the street and managed to slip into it very nicely, thank you, I realized that the parking meters do still work at that time on night on Sunday evenings. Oops. I had exactly 60¢ change with me. I put all my change in the meter and it flashed "23 minutes" at me. For a two-hour reading. In a 90-minute parking zone. I threw caution to the winds and hoped the parking meter goddess would be kind. Do the meter readers really give tickets on rainy Sunday evenings?
I don't remember anything from the first two readings. I was the third one. Yes, the experience validated something within me, something about raising my voice, sharing my voice. I didn't care that no one else was wearing a dress that came below their knees, with nylon stockings. I didn't care that everyone else was reading fiction. I didn't care that I wasn't in on the inside jokes among all the Fiction MFA people who have class together all the time. I was just me, and that was fine.
After I sat down, I was able to enjoy the other readings. There were some fine pieces, stories that are still resonating in my this evening. I am glad I was able to share in their stories. I hope they were glad to share in mine.
And a lovely treat - during the intermission, a former classmate (from a nonfiction writing class) came and chatted with me for the entire intermission. I had a friend in the audience I hadn't even known about!
The event broke up a little before 7:00 pm. The rain had stopped. And I didn't have a parking ticket.