A writer’s festival, an open mic, and jumping out of the comfort zone to read her own piece for an evening of erotica and sensuality.
This weekend was the annual NorthWords Writers Festival in Yellowknife. For years, I’ve been attending primarily as an audience member. If not simply observing, I’ve been working. I’ve sold books at events. As a volunteer, I’ve driven visitors around town. I’ve attended workshops. On a number of occasions, I’ve even hosted the open mic or panel discussions. These are all pretty well within my comfort zone.
This year, I decided to push myself right out of that comfort zone. Not only would I read my own work for the first time in a very long time, I would read at Blush.
Here’s the thing – every year, one of the most popular events at NorthWords is the themed open mic. It’s not any old theme, either. ‘Blush‘ is the evening of erotica and sensuality. Some very talented writers, both amateur and professional, have entertained the crowd with works that are funny, sad, intimate, and beautiful. And sexy. Always, always sexy.
Public speaking is hard, and even though I’ve been lucky to have had training, reading your own work to an audience is hard. Add reading something deliciously smutty to the mix? I was definitely pushing my limits and leaving my comfort zone in the rearview mirror.
In general, I’m a fairly reserved person. It might lead some to think I’m a bit squeamish or somewhat of a prude. An author friend once suggested as much, though not unkindly. The thing is, though, that I do have a secret side that belies all of that. I may, for example, have completed a “shitty first draft” of a romance novel this year, after years of picking away at it. I also may freelance edit erotica now and again. And I may have pushed myself in creative writing by signing up to pen some racy fanfiction as part of a team of birthday writers.
Still, my internet smut aside, reading my own work aloud, whether it’s a rather benign story or a scene from my novel that involves sex in the backseat of a limousine (inspired by Beyoncé’s Partition, incidentally), is always going to be out of the comfort zone. It’s intimate, like baring your naked soul, only in front of strangers.
Myranda and Amber at Blush (an evening of erotica and sensuality)
It did help that a lovely and support fellow Empress, Amber, was reading as well, and invited me to join her and some friends beforehand. The good food and company helped quell the nerves a little.
It probably didn’t help that I couldn’t find my camera lens, but then again, it might have given me a different stress to focus on.
It definitely helped that I told my parents under no circumstances were they to attend. Don’t get me wrong, I love how supportive they are, of me and my writing both. But, there’s really some things you don’t want to read in front of people who are related to you. Literary incest? No thank you.
So, comfort zone be damned! I printed out my pages, edited for time. Practiced in my living room, underlined words to try to remember to breathe. To slow down.
It didn’t go perfectly — the event used to be timed and I’d practiced with my stopwatch, so had an uptick based on that pre-planning. It did, however, go well. I felt good. I felt creative again. I felt the fear, and I did it anyway. And then I got to sit back and observe, back in the comfort zone until next year.