There's a big arts event going on locally at the moment and last night, down at the new university building, they had a writers cafe where people could go along, read their work and share it with like minded folk. It was free to do so.....
I figured if I really do have pretensions of being a writer I'd better start getting my stuff out there, making new contacts and, to use a phrase I detest, networking... pauses to rinse mouth out after filthy modern business speak!
I was very nervous and earlier in the day nearly chickened out,
"No one will want to hear my ramblings. Anyway it'll be full of geeks and spotty youths who write science fiction" I protested to hubby.
"No it won't" he said "Don't be so judgemental and negative. Go on, go!"
The idea was you wrote your name on a piece of paper, they popped them all in a tin and pulled them out at random. If your name was called you got to read a sample of your work for five minutes.
I arrived, with mild trepidation, but in good time to get a seat at a table by myself. I wasn't alone all evening, which I was glad of, but to start with I didn't want to be the one who had to say, "Is anyone sitting here", to a complete stranger. When I'm nervous I can trip on my words and I wouldn't put it past me to say, "Is anyone shitting here" instead.
I bought a bottle of water from the snack bar and found a table at the front. Less furniture to negotiate my hips round should I be called up. Up here for thinking, down there for falling arse over tit!
It was a humid night. My palms were clammy and my mouth was dry. I took a sip of water. Better. I went to put the change from my purchase in my purse. I dug around in my bag. I'll get a tissue to wipe my hands on. I pulled out a sanitary towel by mistake. No one noticed. I quickly stuffed back in.
This wasn't going well.
I looked around me. Everyone seemed so sensible and serious. They were all "proper" writers with poetry and short stories. Not random blog posts. I checked what I'd brought with me, " The One with the Painted Nails" and The One with the Last day and the Physio".
I text the NCT girls.
"I'm at a writers cafe event to hopefully read some of my blogs. There's a lot of very earnest looking people here. I'm not sure they're ready for my post on fanny physio!"
Several of my friends text back with words of encouragement. One of the girls said "You'll be fab. Everyone loves a good fanny story!" I laughed. I felt more relaxed. This is going to be ok. I'll just judge the tone of the evening after a few readers and see how they go down. I have another post with me if I think tales of my peeing myself on a regular basis will be too much for their delicate soles.
It started. "And the first name is... "
It was me!
I was first on!
Shall I read one, two or all three? I don't know how long they last. What happens when the five minutes is up? Does a klaxon sound or does a hook appear from the side of the stage, curl round your neck and yank you away musical hall style?
Well baptism of fire, for me and them. I started with the painted nails post and then it was hello meet my minge!
They tittered, they laughed, they smiled and looked appreciative. Suddenly my short introduction about myself and how I came to write this blog, my two posts and my five minutes were up. Thankfully there was no hooter or hook. I just smiled and said thank you very much for listening.
There was applause. It was all over. I'd set the tone of the evening! Blimey! Anything goes after that.
And anything did!
That's not to say the work was crude, either in tone or style. It was a fantastic variety of pieces. Poetry, short stories, extracts from novels both published and unpublished, humorous, sad, thought provoking, rude and well.. frankly random.
Some of it I can't pretend I understood to be honest, some of it I loved and one piece, a poem on IBS, moved me, in more ways than one! The lady next to me had written a short story I really liked and in one of the breaks, I plucked up the courage to tell her so. It ended abruptly and left me wanting to know if the person in the car ploughed into the river or turned around and went back to work. People came over to me and asked about blogging. A professional author handed out promotional book marks. People used them to write my blog address on!
I had a long chat with a chap from Yorkshire who's novel intrigued me and I could see it being made into a detective drama on TV.
The range of work astounded me and all of it fascinated me. I realised how much I love language. All language. Whether it's used correctly or not it's an amazing tool to communicate, inspire and entertain.
So this morning I feel buoyant by the experience and I'm so glad I went. There was talk of other events later in the year and perhaps even reading our work on local community radio. Maybe this networking lark isn't as poncey as I first thought.
And did we get through the night without any science fiction?
The last reader of the evening was a jolly looking man with a long grey beard and a happy smile,
"My piece is like The Only Way is Essex meets Terry Pratchett." He declared.
I smiled to myself. I knew it!
It was actually very good and had a tag at the end using the word cock and you can never underestimate the comedy value of the word cock!
If science fiction made me laugh then language is indeed a very powerful thing.....