First Public Reading

Dec 2nd, 2014, I made a trip into the city to take part in a reading for the launch of Taddle Creek magazine’s 34th issue.

On the bus ride to Toronto, I was the only passenger who brought a book. Everyone else was reading the internet on their phone or tablet. Holy shit, I thought. I’m a Luddite. If I don’t want the kids to start calling me “Grandpa”, I better get me some fancy gadgets, pronto.

The venue for the night’s reading was Monarch Tavern, a bit of a distance from the bus depot. Because I arrived hours beforehand, I decided to walk. As the snow fell and the wind formed ice crystals in the corners of my eyes, I made a promise to myself that from here on out, I would only submit to magazines being published in the summertime.

The turnout surprised me. Taddle Creek’s sublime reputation drew a crowd that filled the downstairs of the Monarch. I ordered a beer I couldn’t drink, afraid it would tongue-tie me during the reading.

Monarch 2
Conan Tobias officiates the evening’s much contested raffle.

First, Conan Tobias interviewed journalist David Hayes about petty crimes committed in his childhood.

As the out-of-towner, I was afforded the chance to read first. I chose an excerpt from a novel I am working on called The Sisters Lot.

“The narrator is a 12 year old girl,” I explained to the audience. “I don’t really do a 12 year old girl voice, so I’m going to read this using my natural voice and you’ll all just have to suspend your disbelief.”

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I cleared my throat and began reading, the whole while distracted by how badly my hand shook. I hope no one beyond the front row noticed.

My years of experience recording temporary narration tracks during my previous career as a video editor came in handy, allowing me to smoothly get through my story with only a single stumble. At least, I think it went smooth. Truthfully, I was keeping one eye on my shaking hand, willing it to be still and allow me to finish with dignity. Once finished, I raced off the stage, happy to find my beer sitting unmolested at the bar. “Good job,” it applauded. “Now let’s get me inside you where I can congratulate you properly.”

Next to read was Sarah Meehan Sirk, whose haunting and mysterious story Moonmanis the highlight of the magazine. She read a bit from a new story involving dating a man without a face. Jennifer Lovegrove followed up with several poems, and the reading concluded with a surprise performance from Chris Chambers, whose dynamic and energetic reading of his poem about pigeons and drunks and skylines of unread books delighted the crowd.

“Doesn’t he remind you of Matthew McConaughey?” I asked my friend.

“No. Not at all.”

Well, that’s me, always got Matthew McConaughey on the brain.

I lifted my beer to my mouth and noticed my hand still shaking. My on-stage tremors weren’t the result of nerves, but exhaustion from walking the cold streets for four hours. Well, that’s a relief. Instead of butterflies in the stomach it was only hypothermia.

Next time, I’ll fork over for the streetcars.

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