Anatomy Of A First Reading
Over weekend I broke new ground as an author, I did a public reading. It was quite an experience.
According to one of my listeners, it was a world premiere. This was fortunate, as a small cross-section of the world was there to listen.
The venue, if you can call it that, was a vegetable garden in Amsterdam’s eastern suburbs. The event was a regular festival organised by the squatters in the aptly named Bajesdorp, which translates into English as Prison Village.
The village was built to accomodate prison guards from the adjacent Bijlmerbajes. The prison is composed of several high towers interconnected by underground tunnels. The whole place is surrounded by a high wall and a moat. It resembles a modern-day castle more than a prison.
The village now predominantly houses a very active and driven team of people trying to preserve alternative and low-cost cultural events in Amsterdam.
Unfortunately, like many of their counterparts, their survival is under threat from an ever-expanding city bent on modernisation.
I have performed regularly at the festival, which is held bi-annually, but usually as a singer-songwriter. The idea of doing a book reading was totally new experience for me.
I have to say I found it all a bit daunting.
The festival is an exercise in organised chaos and run entirely by enthusiastic volunteers.
The little village is besieged by hundreds of visitors, from all walks of life and corners of the planet, as well as a plethora of artists. There are poets, musicians, acrobats and circus performers.
There were also vendors, bars and children’s entertainment. My son was particularly taken with learning to be a blacksmith, and beating the living daylights out of a piece of hot steel.
It was a hive of activity, and I suppose, not really the best place to something as intimate as telling a story.
From the outset I knew it was going to be difficult.
I had to cope with my own procrastination and fears, as well as everything else which was going on.
After much discussion it was decided I should read in the garden. The rather huge vegetable garden was a sort of chill-out zone, and actually the perfect place to get away from all the main activity on a nice sunny day.
After many delays, which only added to my insecurities, I was told I would perform following another fifteen-minute act.
It turned out to be ballerina perched on an enormous, red ball and a five-metre-high, papier-mâché giant.
It would be an understatement to say they stole my thunder.
At the moment I was due to perform the stage-manager, who was supposed to introduce me, disappeared. I guess she was off chasing a girl balanced precariously on a rather large ball.
After a period of waiting for her to return, I skilfully persuaded myself not to go through with it. Procrastination is a very powerful force if you let it have its way.
It was at this moment the gods of creativity sent me a saviour. A friend, who had been one of the first people to read my book Loreless in its infancy, miraculously appeared out of the crowd.
He encouraged me to gather a group of listeners and do the reading.
I am pretty certain that if he hadn’t turned up I would still be a book presentation virgin.
I have to admit the reading went well, even though I had to compete with a lot of outside influences.
At one stage, when I was half-way through the chapter, my son decided he had an important question for me. Unfortunately, timing is not one of his attributes.
Somehow I managed to quickly answer whatever it was he wanted and point out that I was busy performing. To my surprise, he accepted this without complaint and left me to do my thing.
The scene also provoked laughter from my little group of listeners, so perhaps it was a blessing in disguise.
I then picked up from where I had left off, as if nothing had happened, and the rest went swimmingly.
I even gained some new readers.
Now that I have leapt over another hurdle in my writers journey, I feel confident enough to do it again.
Some steps seem bigger on the face of it but once you’ve made them they seem insignificant.
You should also remember you don’t have to do it alone.
Sometimes you just need a little nudge from a friend.
Have you hit any obstacles in your creativity?
Leave a comment below or join the mailing list and let me know.