First Open Reading, Part One

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Original Date of Post: Sunday, December 16, 2012


Today I participated in my first “open reading.” In Todos Santos, a town close to where we live, a married gringo couple has been holding once a month open readings for many years at an open air restaurant inside an art gallery. I had been hearing and reading announcements about it for the four years that I have lived here, and I would always think to myself, ‘I should do that!’, but I had never attended it, until yesterday.

Because it is an open reading, anyone can read something. The only parameters are that you must read an original work, and you must keep it at five minutes or less. This week, after four years of putting it off, I decided that it was time for me to read something. I guess I was just ready. 

A few months ago I received an email from a man, who wrote about what a good writer I was and was curious to know about my writing process. At first I was overjoyed to receive a compliment, but then I realized I had no idea who the person was who was writing me, and that he wasn’t actually writing to me. (He was writing to my personal email so I knew he wasn’t writing about ZOELAB.) By googling him, I found out he was one of the people who ran the open reading. I emailed him back to let him know his email came to me by mistake. It turned out he meant to be writing to a different Zoë--but somehow had sent it to my email instead. 

The Zoë he was writing to is 13 years old. I found out later, that she had been taking a writing class with the him and he was giving her feedback via email. The other Zoë I also know as she and her brother are close friends with the two sisters I taught a film class to, which resulted in a 6 minute film that the girls (11 and 13 who were 10 and 12 when we started) wrote, directed, and acted in. Anyway, I knew the other Zoë, and her brother, also, because I had given each of them a haircut several years ago. Her brother who was 7 at the time, had requested a mohawk. I was nervous I’d get in trouble with his parents if I did it, so I gave him a “normal” looking haircut and just styled his hair to look like a mohawk. A week ago, I received another email from the organizer of the open reading, again by accident, this one thanking the participants for sharing their work. I decided it was a sign from the universe that I needed to read something at the open reading.

I knew right away what I wanted to read. The two part piece I wrote about my brother--GeGe & MeiMei (the Chinese words for older brother and younger sister). I chose it because it was both light and open hearted, and because I had received more feedback about it than any other piece I’ve written. Also, I had recently received an email from my brother entitled “designer jeans.” I decided to share the words from my brother at the reading.  I practiced reading the piece aloud to see how long it would take, I put my timer on and it beeped half way through. So I had to edit it, and quickly, as I had to leave in thirty minutes. I crossed out paragraphs and sections, timed myself again, and knew it was still too long, so I picked a few more lines to take out. I had never edited something so quickly in my life, and it was freeing to do it. I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants, and that, for some reason, is the style in which I like to do things. In fact, the best advice I ever got from a writing teacher was to edit in an intuitive way rather than in a mental way. Play with your words, and let yourself sense what doesn’t need to be there. In this case, it was easy as I had no choice, and it was just a temporary restructuring. 

To be continued...