Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Art Farm Reading Recap: The Art of Listening & Other Quandaries

This weekend, I was lucky enough to read at the KGB Bar (which also has a literary magazine!) with four other women writers who also did residencies at the Art Farm this season. It was great to reunite with Raluca and Aimee, writers that I lived and worked with on the farm, and Ed, the amazing ringmaster of this gloriously DIY operation. I was also introduced to two other awesome writers, Kaylen and Lauren.
The Art Farm writers and ED, mastermind of it all!
Before I got to the bar, friends asked me if I was nervous about reading. "Nope," I said. "Not in the least." I had a bunch of friends coming to the reading and somehow their presence seemed to be enough to ward off any feelings of worry or anxiety. [By the way, thank you to the best friends ever who came from Boston and NJ to attend! It was so special to have their support!!]

That is, until I got up the podium. Then I forgot my name and how to even speak English, for that matter. The whole thing was a strange out of body experience, and I'm not quite sure how I got through it. But somehow, my mouth spoke words and pages were turned.

Anyway, this has me wondering -- do people actually LISTEN to what's being read at a reading? 

Generally, I think I'm a pretty bad listener, although I've been getting better since becoming addicted to podcasts. But usually, when I'm listening to a podcast I'm by myself and I'm keeping myself physically occupied with an activity like driving or cooking. 

During a reading, there are so many moving parts. First of all, you're in a room full of people. That's distraction enough to keep my mind occupied for days, thinking up story lines for these strangers' lives. Also, you have nothing to do but listen. Maybe it's just me, but I find this extremely hard. 

Don't get me wrong -- I like attending readings and I get something out of the experience, but I think it's such a wholly different way to interact with the written word.

I think about how different the "writing life" is these days. Today, writers have to think like rock stars in order to sell any books and make money. With free music downloads, musicians can't make money on records like they used to. So they have to go on tour to make the big bucks. It's the same with writers. Gone are the days when writers didn't need to have a public persona to be successful. I see more and more writers going on tours (if they're lucky enough to have their publishers foot the bill). Some readings I've been to even make buying the book mandatory to get into the event!

I think that readings can be moving events, and they certainly have a purpose in terms of getting your work directly to an audience. But for an extrovert like me who can barely keep my butt in a chair, I wonder what people get out of the experience. Feel free to post a comment here and let me know what you love or dislike about attending readings! 

Here are some photos of the event!
The sultry venue on the lower east side!
Aimee Herman shares poetry and letters
Raluca Albu reading from her novel-in-progress