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Weldon Writes ... Almost a Blog

The Fear of Reading

Ok, here's the thing. I've never read my own work in public before. You'd think, after freelancing for 30+ years (yes, I know I'm dating myself), I would have taken the opportunity, at least once, to read a short story or excerpt from my writing. To be honest, I don't recall ever even being invited to do so.

Until now.

On April 16, at 2:00 in the afternoon, I will be reading with my fellow Written Remains Writers Guild members in the Community Room of the New Castle Public Library here in Delaware. This is a wonderful opportunity, a learning experience at the very least.

Can you hear my knees knocking?

I'm a bit anxious about the reading. Like most writers, who are typically more like hermits than spotlight-stealers, I loathe public speaking. And how ironic that the story I intend to read is a flash piece titled "Performance Anxiety." Must be something karmic going on here!

The story was originally written for Drabblecast, a weekly audio fiction podcast; the production of the story was posted on the Drabblecast Web site back in 2008. Norm Sherman's reading of "Performance Anxiety" was spot-on excellent. I hope I can do the story justice when I read it.

So, I've been practicing using a handheld digital recorder. The story is flash fiction, right around 500 words. No sweat, right? I've rewritten parts of the story because I tended to stumble over some phrasing—for example, I changed "luxurious auburn hair" to "magnificent red hair." My friends will tell you that I tend to mumble, my brain racing ahead of my tongue. This usually results in a nasty entanglement of words tumbling from my mouth. Think "The King's Speech" with no sense of regality. So, I'm excising any stumbling blocks in the content of the story. I'll do anything to make it easier to read.

When I've practiced using the digital recorder, I've clocked in at just over two minutes. But, of course, I'm reading the story far too fast. I have to be mindful to slow down, to enunciate, to "hit" key phrases and words. And, ultimately, I need to be prepared to perform. This will be a performance, after all. I have to keep this firmly in mind. This reading is meant to entertain an audience.

The other thing I'm keeping in mind is that I need to do this more in the future, especially as I get closer to finishing my novel and as I churn out more fiction. This is what professional writers do. We may write in seclusion, but we certainly can't market that way.

So, I will master this. I will learn to be comfortable in front of my audience. I may stumble in my virgin attempt. Maybe not. But I will surely, in time, get better at reading in public.

On a slightly different note, the library will set up a table to display and sell the works of the writers participating in the reading event. I want to thank Michael Bailey for providing copies of his anthology Pellucid Lunacy, which includes my story "Sizzle." I also want to thank John and Shannon Raab for providing copies of the January issue of Suspense Magazine, which includes my interview with bizarro/horror author Jeremy Shipp. These books and magazines will be available for purchase, and all resulting funds will be donated to the Food Bank of Delaware, one of my family's favorite charities.

You're all invited to attend the event. Hope to see you there.

Oh, and please wish me luck!

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