This is the fourth year my local writers’ group has held a public reading, and it was a first for me. What a great experience!
I joined the group a year ago and found myself in a room with 20 or so writers who care about language. For some, publication is a goal; for others it is a way of life; still others write for the love of writing, sharing their best work, and getting constructive feedback. Half of each monthly meeting is reserved for members to read aloud for five minutes from a work-in-progress and hear constructive feedback from the group.
When I learned the group holds a public reading each year, which is not a fundraiser, I wondered why. I decided to lend a hand and teamed up with another member. Together, we locked in the date, reserved the space, lined up the sound system, signed up readers and refreshments, produced programs, and organized the rehearsal.
Leading up to the public reading, which was held two weeks ago, members polished up a story, poem, essay, or excerpt from a novel or memoir. Readings had to fit in five-minute time slots. Rehearsal was mandatory to acquaint everyone with the microphone and ensure the work and the reader were ready. In all, a dozen members opted to read to an audience of about 40, our biggest audience ever.
Every reading was engaging, error-free, and compelling. A few poems knocked my socks off with their depth and insight into the human spirit. Two stories made me laugh out loud. And so it went, with every piece sparkling for the appreciative audience.
That was part of my answer about why the group holds a public reading. After all, our monthly meetings are formative sessions. This was a recital, a culmination of each writer’s hard work in its best form. Sure we were nervous about standing and delivering to strangers, but when we were done, we smiled with pride and blinked with the realization that people who didn’t even know us liked our work.
But that was only part of the answer. More answers came in the form of a congratulatory letter from our group president. Our audience this fourth year, she said, included more community members. We strengthened relations with the town library, where we hold our meetings. Just as important, a writer happened upon the event, stopped in, stayed to talk, and decided to join the group as a next step on her journey to publication.
Finally, for me personally, participating in the planning and in the reading took me to the next level of feeling “part of” the group and of my new community. And, hey, I sold a few books. In the end, though, it isn’t about the money. It’s about writing and sharing and continual improving.