The Southern Festival of Books Panel

You guys, it went so well. The room was packed. The Butcher’s family made it in time to hear me read. The panel was amazing. And the audience was really into it.

Sheree Renee Thomas brought a writer friend who had been mostly quiet and reserved before the event. But my god, he sat in the front row and smiled at everyone supportively and laughed when laughing was needed and shouted out when shouting was needed. It was really great. I was so grateful to him.

I think a lot about what makes or breaks a reading and I have long respected Chet’s (the guy from Third Man, who is always having literary events) ability to get the crowd to be open to stuff they might not be familiar with. But Thomas’s friend knew how to be an audience in a way that I now aspire to be for other writers. That kind of open responsiveness is just so great coming from another writer. It’s like if Penn & Teller tell you your trick is good. They know.

I read the first five pages of “Jesus Has Forgiven Me. Why Can’t You?” and it was perfect. I don’t know that I’d ever read it out loud except to myself as I was revising, so I had the fun experience of discovering that it was really great to read out loud as I was reading out loud. It was delightful.

Something is happening to me, or has happened and now I’m just noticing, but I felt completely at home reading that story in front of that crowd. Seeing nm laugh at places I hoped she’d laugh, in one case, wrote specifically based on a conversation she and I had had about what kind of forgiving Jesus would do. Having S. assure me I was dog-hair-less. The gushing text K. sent me later.

I felt beautiful. Like, not on a surface level. No, that’s not quite it. Not only on a surface level, though I looked in a mirror before the event and considered myself not just passable, but cute. But I felt so sure it was worth everyone’s time to pay attention to me. I felt like someone worth looking at.

I never feel that way. I usually feel like “oh, sorry you have to look at me,  but I’ll make it worth your time by being funny or charming or knowledgeable or quirky or whatever.” Or maybe I feel like you love me so you’re used to how I look and it’s not off-putting anymore, it’s just how this person you care about looks.

But yesterday, I felt beautiful. And sure of it. And I never want to forget how awesome that was.

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One thought on “The Southern Festival of Books Panel

  1. All the readers were good, in the sense that all the stuff that was being read was good. But you and Sheree Renee Thomas were remarkably good, in the sense that you would send those readings in as audition tapes if you wanted to be hired to record audio books. Thomas had me hanging on her every word to find out what came next. (I’m sure you would have, too, but I’ve read the story already, so I already knew.) The whole panel was a delight.

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