Happy Monday, everyone!
I'm still tired after my great evening last night at The New Short Fiction Series. Thank you to Dian Kobayashi, David Bickford, Kimiko Gelman, Matthew Lange, and especially Sally Shore for bringing my stories to life! And thanks to all my friends and family who took time to come and see the show.
I sat in the back of the room last night while the reading was taking place so that I could try to get a sense of how the audience was reacting to my stories. Though I didn't expect it, two of the most memorable parts of the evening didn't have anything to do with my stories, at least not totally.
Two rows in front of where I was sitting sat a couple of women whom I didn't know. I watched them as the mistress of the show, Sally Shore, went up and read my bio. Then, because at least half the audience were people I knew, the room filled with loud and cheery applause. One of the women turned to the other one and shrugged.
I thought to myself, "Well, okay, she definitely isn't biased in my favor!"
The stories began, and the first to readings went beautifully. This woman whom I did not know clapped when everyone else did. I didn't get much more of a response from her than that. Then, the third story began. David Bickford sat in front of the audience and said, "I'm waiting for my dogs to die."
The woman turned to her companion. She pointed to herself. Throughout that short story, she kept turning to her companion, nodding, and I think she connected with something in the story. But was it my story she was connecting to? What I think happened was that the story she heard was only serving to remind her of her own story, one she lived herself. I saw my work differently as a result of that. For a moment, it wasn't my job to actually depict anything. Rather, what I was doing was helping the reader to tap into memories they already had, the stories of themselves.
After the show, the performers, some friends, and my brother went out for drinks and snacks. I sat next to my brother, and the two of us had a rare bonding moment. See, he knows me better than almost anyone else on the planet. He knew the sources of several of the stories in my book. What he told me was something I didn't expect. He said that after reading one of my stories, he got so angry that he had to put the book down and step away for a while. I thought he was mad at me--as did some of the other people at the table. But actually he was mad at what had been done to me. He was mad at the people who did it.
Because of the moment, because of the sudden emotion, I reminded him that my stories were fictional. I said that not everything in the book was accurate in the sense that I was recording something that actually happened. I dramatize things. They're just stories.
Naturally, this came as no surprise to him, and he told me he understood that. But the thing that had made him angry wasn't the story itself. Again, it was what the story reminded him of. It brought back his own stories about our lives.
On this blog, I've mentioned before that some writers convince me that they're psychic. I've felt this strongly with Dostoevsky and Woolf, and a bit with Updike. What I'm realizing is that the psychic connection isn't really the process of a reader seeing what the writer has created. Not necessarily. It can instead be the writer making the reader see what they've already experienced.
I've felt a little behind with everything lately, and this week I'm actually in the middle of a move. On my to do list is the announcement of winners from my Spread the Word contest and a post on how to give a good public reading with advice from Sally Shore. Stay tuned!