I had my workshop. All went well. Red Dot has some fans! The feedback was consistent, clear and doable. Very positive–almost scarily so–with no major issues. The way forward is clear and not fraught. That was fun! I later had my one-on-one meeting with Ana Menéndez, and that was great as well. Maybe I am being too relaxed. Later, when I get home, I will go over the feedback and realize one person really didn’t like Red Dot, and I completely missed that. This is so odd: normally I latch onto the criticisms, but here I am finding this so pleasant I am likely deluded. Still, pleasant!
I also had my fifteen minutes with the agent. I talked with her extensively about the India book. I told her about the others, too, but she came back to that time after time. It caught her interest, while also being unsalable. Her idea: treatment for a Netflix India series. That’s certainly an original and smart idea. The down side: It would be a lot of work, on spec, with an extremely poor chance of success. Much as I admire people who commit to that, I am getting up there in years and a key question is how do I want to spend my time?
So that’s where we are now. I am doing wash and the reading is in three hours. The reading has kept me up for several nights, but now I feel ready.
The reading just ended. I went first, with the opening of “Do You Have A Plan,” rewritten twelve times or so. I made use of the lessons of Patrick Donnelly’s session on reading your own work: be louder than you think you need to be, you are there to be interesting to the listeners, use your finger to track your position on the page so you can look up and then back down at the page, DO look up every so often, say your own name clearly, remember that no one is really listening for the first six seconds or so (I used that to do a mini intro of the piece), try to engage both the chest register and the head register (I think my nasal register is largely absent, the opposite of what I had expected). I was well rehearsed, having nearly memorized the piece.
It went great. People laughed at the right spots. Someone even gasped at one point. I could have looked up more, as always, but the applause sounded so genuine and loud and kept going on. Are you kidding me? I had been worried about being boring, and now this? I became embarrassed by it and cut it off by introducing the fabulous Celeste Chan, who followed me. I then got to sit down. Having read already, I was able to take in everyone else’s reading. I’ve met most of the readers, and by meet I mean had a chance to really talk to. I guess I really gravitated toward the other LGBTQ+ people without realizing it. So much good stuff. This was so fun to be a part of. The highlight of the conference for me, for sure, to be part of this event with these people. On cloud nine.
I feel much more welcomed. There are still the same hierarchies and competitive layers (all very explicit, which honestly makes it much more OK), but being part of that group, and so well received, was heartwarming. The crowd size was close to 200. It was the one reading for “contributors” (that’s the lowest rung) that also included “fellows” (2) and “scholars” (1? 2? 3?). No, wait, the people of color reading tomorrow will also be like that. I did not expect that I would put so little mental energy into the pages I brought to workshop (literally no real worries) and so much mental energy (literally waking up at 3AM sweating that I would embarrass myself by with three minutes of boring, forrgettable prose) into these three minutes: Rewriting, retyping, taking the class on speaking your work, rewriting, reading aloud out on the grass, in our room, sitting on a washing machine, rewriting. And rewriting. And, shockingly, I was almost comfortable up there, performing. It feels more important than the agent/editor meetings.
We have two more days of workshops, with two big-name readings and a dinner, then done. Lots more work to do—getting up early to go over other people’s manuscripts again tomorrow and the next day!!!!