They laughed. Last night, at ComedySportz in Milwaukee when I read my essay, “Crop Tending,” they laughed.
Later, my husband said it was because I paused like Jack Benny, letting the expectation of laughter hang in the air, like I wouldn’t keep reading unless they laughed. He was right. I knew enough to wait for it. I don’t know how I knew, but I did.
It wasn’t scary, reading in front of people. Not for a single second. The reason was that the audience was full of Red Oak Writing folks so it felt like reading at my writing group with all the safety and gentleness I’ve become accustomed to there. Writers are so kind, I’d posted earlier in the day on Facebook, and it’s true. They would love me for trying, for putting one word in front of the other.
Nonetheless, my husband worried when I ordered the second beer when person #3 was reading. “You’re not going to drink that before your turn?” He never says anything about my drinking, never comments in any way on what I’m doing or wearing or thinking, so it seemed funny that he would worry that a second beer would somehow scotch my performance, so to speak. Then it occurred to me that maybe he was nervous on my behalf and, of course, I loved him for it. You have to love people worrying about you even if it’s unnecessary.
The evening was rich with acceptance and appreciation for people’s stories. Every writer should have that. If you don’t, go find it. Find people who will love you for trying, who will find in what you write something precious, who will treat your spilled words like pearls cut loose from a broken necklace, and tell you always to keep the pen in your hand. Find those people. They’re out there. I know it.