Words Alive (3)

Part 1 | Part 2

Peo­ple kept ask­ing me all day — all week lead­ing up to the week­end, real­ly: “Are you ner­vous?” I’d answer “Yeah, some­what”, or “Not real­ly”, or “I used to read in church all the time”*. I was a lit­tle ner­vous, though.

Fri­day after­noon, after the screen­writ­ing ses­sion, I went home and — for the first time — read aloud the sec­tion I’d intend­ed to read. I timed myself. It took four min­utes to read the descrip­tion of the dream palace erect­ed by the gods at the far end of time. Four min­utes. I had fif­teen to fill.


So I read the first half of the sto­ry aloud, which came to some­thing like eleven or twelve min­utes. That was more like it. The down­side was that it was, well, a lit­tle sweary. The view­point char­ac­ter is a trick­ster god, named Fox, and he’s … earthy.

Which would­n’t be so bad, but my mom was com­ing for the reading.


So. Read­ing time. The pres­i­dent of Words Alive intro­duced me, and I went up with my copy of Tesser­acts 14, turned to my sto­ry, and start­ed to read.

As I read, I looked out at the crowd every so often, to see what they were think­ing. I hon­est­ly could not read them. Some looked like they were hav­ing fun; some were intent. At least none were sleep­ing; I decid­ed that I’d call that a victory.

After my read­ing, I sat down, and lis­tened to Kathryn Borel, Jr.‘s tales of France, her dad, and acci­den­tal vehic­u­lar manslaugh­ter. When she was done, Joseph Boy­den read from his non-fic­tion tale of Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. He said it was a strange thing, being able to read from the end of his book at a read­ing. You know, since we already know how it ends.

After­ward, there was a wine and cheese evening. I signed a few books, and had a chance to chat with both Joseph and Kathryn. Kathryn told me that I was a very fun­ny guy, and need­ed just to loosen up a lit­tle. She also said that, when she’d come in, she’d seen my moth­er sit­ting there, and thought Oh no, since, as she says, she does­n’t usu­al­ly go over well with moth­ers. But then I did my read­ing, swear­ing like a trick­ster god afflict­ed with ennui, and she sighed with relief.

Joseph had to leave ear­ly, to catch a plane to the next stop, but Kathryn joined the par­ty as it left one venue and trooped to the next one. Lat­er that evening, she demon­strat­ed the art of cham­pagne saber­ing in the street.

My mom and I left the par­ty about one in the morn­ing, as it was wind­ing down (for most; the pro­pri­etor of Venue 2 was up till 3AM, clean­ing up).

It was a great weekend.


And in a post-mortem way, I had two very excit­ing pieces of news at the next Group Voice*** meeting.

  1. Joseph Boy­den, dis­ap­point­ed that Tesser­acts had sold out, asked Kei­th — the Words Alive prez, and book­store pro­pri­etor — to ship him a copy once he’s restocked. I ful­ly intend to sign it, too, before it heads down to New Orleans.
  2. One of the audi­ence mem­bers turned to Bet­ty, a fel­low writer in Group Voice, and asked her if all the sto­ries in Tesser­acts were writ­ten by yours tru­ly. Bet­ty told her no, it’s an anthol­o­gy, and I have just the one sto­ry in it. “Too bad,” her friend said. “If it was all his, I’d buy a copy.”

Bit of an ego stroke, there.

All in all, I sure am look­ing for­ward to next year’s Fes­ti­val! See you there?


* To be fair, the Word of the Lord has few­er F‑bombs and fart­ing ferrets.**
** Acci­den­tal allit­er­a­tion is the order of the day, it seems.
*** The local writin’ group.