distraction no.99

Nova Ren Suma | On Writing & Writing Distractions

Not an Author Newsletter… something else.

15 Minutes in the Spotlight

Yesterday evening I stood on a raised platform before rows of seats and read words I’d written out loud to few friends and mostly strangers. The light was on me, on the square where I stood, but not on the people in the audience, so when I looked out I saw only the faint outlines of their heads, the sense of them out there in front of me, waiting for me to say something. So I read. I read though my throat was dry. Read though I couldn’t see my E, and so our hand-signal arrangements would not help me now. Read without microphone. Read while standing instead of sitting on the stool for fear (realistic), that I might fall. Read though my left leg was inexplicably shaking. Read for 15 whole minutes—I know because I’d timed it beforehand. Read.

Then done, then actual applause.

Sounds terrifying—it actually wasn’t. I think I was more anxious beforehand wondering if anyone I knew would show up. My friends didn’t—busy or bad timing or sick. My family didn’t—too far away. But two VIPs did come, two people I most wanted to come: my DANI editor and her husband. Can you believe they came! I was so touched.

Not so terrifying when you’re up there. Not bad once you open your mouth and the words start pouring out. The words in question were from a short story that was once a part of a novel. I’m turning it into a story so I have more things to send out on submission. (I’m also toying with the idea of a page-1 rewrite with a kernel of the idea, turning it into a YA novel.) I should have said, before I started reading the pages, that I was reading an excerpt. Not a whole story. But I don’t know what I said. I was just suddenly standing up there reading. I looked out for E in the darkness—pretended I could see him—and just read to him.

People came up to me after to say nice things. That’s what happens when you read: Strangers hear you. They hear you. They comment, and they ask questions, and they tell you to make a movie based on your story, and they ask if it was real. So you can’t throw it away, can you? Thanks to yesterday, I am not going to throw those pages away.

(Fact is, some many months ago, I almost did.)

There were three other readers too—all so talented, and such good readers, I hope I held my own. Thank you to the magical person who organized this reading and asked me to take part. I am so thrilled I did it.

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8 responses to “15 Minutes in the Spotlight”

  1. Fantastic, Nova! I’ve disappeared for the past few months (seems like longer) – but have still kept tabs on your fabulous career as it unfolds. =)

    Your post a little while back about just doing it (writing a novel or a book, that is) really stuck with me. The only thing between myself and what I want is myself. Part of my disappearance has been related to my beginning work on a new novel myself. I’ve got a deadline of August…and you to inspire me to plug away at it.

    Just wanted to come out of blogger hibernation to say hello. =)

  2. i have it from reliable sources (*extremely* reliable sources) that you knocked it out of the park. in fact, i hear you hit it out of the stratosphere, all the way into outer space. so to speak.

    congratulations, and glad your shaking leg didn’t ultimately betray you. definitely turn the piece into a story and submit it—from what i hear, it was wonderful.

  3. you are incredible. you and your writing is so inspiring. everyday i’m completely shocked at just how amazing you are.

    i’m a very lucky boy.

  4. Annika, thank you. Maybe one day I will get to do a reading in LA! Or, worst case, I could always perform a reading to you & W & S in your living room? Heh.

    Mella, Hi! I’ve been wondering how you are. I completely understand disappearing when you’re in deep with a new novel. August, huh? I should take your example and disappear with you.

    Andi, thanks so much 🙂

    Will, I hope you will be there when I read for you in your living room. Then you can tell me stories about chupacabras. Deal?

    Bookfraud, !!!!!! thank you so much !!!!! It means so much, you have no idea. And also: SO GLAD you are back and posting again.

    E: You are the one who inspires me. I won’t embarrass you by saying everything I want to say, so I’ll tell you later, at home. Just wait…

  5. […] The First Signing… Ever 2009 October 12 tags: dani noir by nova Let’s talk about nerves. I’ve got ’em. The last time I did a reading it was up on a low stage lit by lights, looking out over dark rows of seats in which I couldn’t see a single face. I couldn’t sit on the stool provided because I am short and—worse—clumsy, and felt sure I’d fall. So I stood, and looked out into the dark, and read from a short story. One of my legs was shaking, but I don’t know if anyone noticed. I survived that reading with my heart still beating; evidence can be found here. […]

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