Last Saturday I had a public reading to do at Joseph-Beth for my short story in Appalachian Angels. This wasn't my first public reading, but because this was a huge bookstore, it sure felt like my first one. My heart pounded away, my nerves were as taught as violin strings, my palms were sweaty, and I had to concentrate on breathing correctly! I was a mess and the closer it came for my turn to walk to the podium and read into the microphone, the worse I got. There was another part of me that kept thinking how ridiculous I was being! Years ago, my husband worked in another store just a short walk from Joseph-Beth. While he was there, I'd go to Joseph-Beth and spend hours walking around, soak in the atmosphere, and feel that little ping of jealousy when authors were there to do their signings and readings. I secretly dreamed that one day I'd be able to do this, and then when I get the amazing opportunity, what do I do? Freak out.
So how did I end up handling it? I arrived at Joseph-Beth two hours early. I got out of my truck and stood in the parking lot and looked up at the huge bookstore letters sitting atop Lexington Green. I took in a deep breath and smiled. It was actually happening. I was here, getting ready to walk into this place as an author. My heart beat a little faster and I started having a daydream of walking up to the front to read and tripping and falling, or dry-heaving into the microphone as I tried to speak. I squinted my eyes shut for a second and shook the thought away. I was nervous as could be, but I told myself that I would refuse to let those kinds of thoughts ruin a long-awaited dream.
Since it was a Saturday afternoon the store was busy. There are two levels at this Joseph-Beth, and as I approached the escalator I looked ahead to see the Appalachian Angels banner hanging in all its glory from the top floor balcony. I'd brought my camera and took a picture. To the right of the escalator sat a long table showcasing the days list of visiting authors and their books. I got a little choked up. I spent time walking around the store, thinking back to those days when I was here to just walk around and dream. It helped settle my nerves. Then the editor came in with her black briefcase in hand, saw me, smiled, and grabbed me and hugged me. I pointed over the banister to the lower floor where Joseph-Beth had us set up for our reading. The butterflies in my stomach flared up, but I once again reminded myself that I was going to enjoy this day and take it all in.
We headed downstairs to meet with the bookstore employee handling our reading. Sylvia, the editor, helped her set up the podium and microphone. More authors from the book arrived and we all sat together waiting for the reading to start. I think this was the worst part for me. It took a lot to handle the height of my nerves at this point. A dear friend traveled an hour to come hear me read and as I handed her my camera to take pictures, my hand shook so hard that she grabbed it and looked straight at me and said, "It is going to be just fine. You're going to do great." I was so glad she was there. I was even happier I didn't have to go first. I took a sip of my coke and then hated myself for it--I just knew I would be burping into the microphone now. There go my nerves again.
It came my turn to go up. I could hear my heart pounding in my head. I didn't trip when I walked up to the podium. I smiled at the audience (all seats were filled) as I adjusted the microphone. I introduced myself, my story, and began to read. I didn't dry-heave or burp, but read my story with the emotion and heart it deserved. It's only a short story, and as I got to the last paragraph which is extremely emotionally charged, I heard the gasps and ohhs. They were listening, they heard my words not my nerves, and my story touched them. I finished reading, closed the book, looked up at the audience and smiled. My heart was still beating hard as they clapped. It was a wonderful dream realized. I hope I have more public readings in my future and I know I'll still be nervous, but I will not let it overtake the excitement, happiness, satisfaction, and sharing that comes from this writer's dream.
2 years ago