Last night, I had the esteemed privilege of attending a gathering of the best creative writers that Northern Kentucky University has to offer. Loch Norse Magazine (formerly NKU Expressed) hosted the event, dubbed "First Draft Friday," in the Student Union's multipurpose room as they have done all their prior public readings.
This reading was the first one of the fall semester, and the first one to be held with their new staff. My former poetry professor, Kelly Moffett, is the faculty member overseeing the magazine's production, and my dear friend and peer, Jenn Whalen, is the new Editor-in-Chief. Another good friend of mine, Elizabeth Parsons, is now their Fiction Editor. Elizabeth revealed to me that with the new name change will also come an increase in page length for the magazine, as they will be investing more of their funds into creating space on which to share more student work than ever before. I could also see this making it possible to accept longer submissions than they have in the past, but I could also see where they might want to use the extra space to showcase more student work, as I'm sure some of the decisions they have to make in terms of what gets published are tough.
The turnout was good for this first reading, about the same as the prior readings I've been to on campus. I could understand if the staff would want to see a greater turnout, though, as there were probably twenty or so people total. Most of the people who attend these events are student writers affiliated with NKU, as I am, and speaking from my own desires I would like to see more non-writers and students of the general population coming out to see what we can do. If there is any way I can help Loch Norse bring in more people, I will gladly do it.
To get back on topic, the event was emceed by another friend and peer of mine, Zachary Grady, who provided the introductions for each writer and the humor to help keep the audience engaged between readings. The second person to read was, to my recollection, a history major with an English minor, and he read from a novel-in-progress. It was his reading that made it evident to myself, as well as the staff, that for the next events a time limit might have to be put in place. His reading lasted almost a half hour, and it was awkward for all involved when he had to be asked to leave the stage. The first time this occurred, he said he was nearly done, but kept reading an additional ten minutes before he had to be given "the hook." It wasn't that he was boring (he was quite compelling) so much as it was the fact he was eating into time. The event was slated to be over by 8:00 or 9:00, and the staff wanted to make sure everyone who came wanting to read got to do so in the time they had the room reserved for.
My good friend, Christopher Burdett, was also a notable presence at the event. He is the closest thing to a genius I know, as well as a very strong writer as well, and he caught me groaning on Facebook about how I have a tendency of starting projects and not following through on them. He had me enter a "poetry pact" with him, which almost works like a death pact except that the point of our deal was that we would each write a poem in anticipation of the event and bring it to read for everyone. We each presented two poems, and I think one each we both wrote the day of (I wrote one mine after arriving at the event). It was hilarious for me because I was really struggling and agonizing trying to scrape something together to honor our pact, and I automatically assumed with Burdett's genius intellect he was going to wordsmith something that was going to blow what I had out of the water. I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I was when Zachary Grady came over and asked us what we were planning to share. Burdett told him about his two poems, and I told him I had two poems, a one-page short creative nonfiction piece, as well as seven pages I wanted to read from my most recent short story, "A Private Room in Rosewood." Grady asked me to close the show so that the fiction pieces were more spread out, which thrilled me because I could use going after Burdett as a sort of comedic timing to make the joke that, "Hey, we had a pact, you saw how awesome he was, here's my shitty response!" I was overjoyed.
I can see where closing an event like this would be an added pressure for someone, because it's your words that wind up lingering in the minds of the audience before you. Personally, I feel extremely comfortable in front of a crowd in spite of my somewhat quiet and reserved nature; matter of fact, I enjoy it. I live for events like this. I feel like my set was solid, and the feedback I got seemed overwhelmingly positive. I actually had a fellow student message me over Facebook to tell me she was in love with my writing, which is the first time that's ever happened to me. Never had anyone fall in love with my words, before... o-O ...if only I could get them to fall for me. XD Eh, but anyway, I started off with the poem I wrote in, like, ten minutes after I arrived. It's untitled, and it's about cake; I got the idea in the shower of all places. I more or less juxtapose a fruitcake and a devil's food chocolate cake, and was using those images to convey my thoughts about different points in a creative person's career, when they first start out and have artistic/indie credibility versus when they make it big and become mainstream. It only occurred to me after writing it that maybe, JUST MAYBE, I should have done research about cake making, because I know next to nothing about it. The next poem I read was untitled, based on the current situation my great uncle is in battling renal cancer. I then read the untitled creative nonfiction piece that can be found elsewhere on my blog, written from the perspective of my hat that captures the duality of my life with Crohn's Disease, and I finished by reading seven pages worth of my yet-to-be-finished short story, "A Private Room in Rosewood."
I felt bad not having more uplifting material, almost feeling like I was slowly sucking any positive emotions from out of the room, but I'll do my best to rectify that at the next event they have in the semester. I tried to dull the depression of the pieces I read by inserting droppings of dry humor when I felt it appropriate, as well as trying to emote in a way that conveyed to them that I was more exasperated than genuinely angry or depressed. I tried to show my audience the humor that lies within my serious-looking exterior, and I think in spite of my reservations about my performance they were ignored, embraced by the audience not as a death to their happiness, but as really strong, honest pieces of writing, and for that I am extremely grateful.
I cannot wait for the next event to come along; the chance to share my work with people in that type of a setting is what really brings me to life, and I'm always looking for a chance to make a connection like the one I got to with that audience.