I first read my own writing in public more than ten years ago, at the Lux coffee bar in downtown Seattle, as part of a reading series sponsored by the newly-formed Hobart and Monkeybicycle magazines. I remember being terrified. The first public readings I did were the only time I questioned my decision to try to become some kind of writer. “Maybe,” I thought, “I could be the kind of writer who never reads his work out loud.”
I think the readings happened monthly, and I read at a number of them, along with Shya Scanlon, Steven Seighman, Aaron Burch, and other Seattle writers I don’t remember any more. I think Ryan Boudinot might have joined us. I remember once there was a guy who set an egg timer to 5 minutes and read as many summaries of Northwest sawmill accident reports as he could before the timer rang.
I remember one time we were joined by Todd Zuniga, the editor of Opium, who had come down from Vancounver, BC. Todd read the best story of anyone that night, a piece about a girl he loved. It was poetic, and innocent, and made everybody sigh. He also offered a helpful critique of the piece I read, which was, as I recall, a review of the imagined decopage art of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger.
“Too smart,” Todd said.
Later, Shya went to Brown, got an MFA, and published a novel. Aaron established Hobart as a renowned literary magazine, and Steven did the same for Monkeybicycle. Ryan published a short story collection and a novel, and became the head of a creative writing program in Port Townsend. His second novel comes out next year.
Todd became famous as the inventor and proprietor of the Literary Death Match.
I managed to become less and less terrified of public readings, and in fact I actually enjoy them now.
I never heard what happened to the guy with the egg timer and the sawmill accident reports.
So I’m looking forward to the Literary Death Match in Washington, D.C., this coming Tuesday, November 8th, which Todd will host. I’m so happy to have been invited to participate in one of these. Click the banner below for details.