Joe from the Writers Garret asked for readers, as in people willing to read their own writing OUT LOUD in front of the crowd of Saturday window shoppers at a local upscale mall. No, don't let me go all weaselly about this -- it wasn't any old shopping mall. It was NorthPark Center in Dallas, Texas. True confession: I love NorthPark. It may be the only shopping mall that houses a collection of stupendous art, right there by the food court, the escalators, everywhere. It has an indoor duck pond and a children's library. My family hangs out there when the weather won't let the kids play outside. It's way, way cooler than your usual shopping venue. So of course I told Joe I'd read. I begged him to let me read. He said yes. Then I remembered that reading my own words in public makes me want to throw up.
The Garret, a gathering place in East Dallas that offers writing classes and workshops, was one of dozens of organizations invited to an arts fair at NorthPark that day. Our booth was next to those for book reviewers and oral storytellers. Costumed actors from the local Shakespearean theater strolled the halls, with more actors dressed as characters from the books of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss. You know him, the cat from Whoville who stole Christmas. The stage area where those of us who accepted the challenge of Garret writer in residence Joe Milazzo would read was between a Starbucks and the restrooms at that end of the mall. It was busy with a capital biz.
Fellow writer Gigi asked me to videotape her reading. Maybe she just took pity on me looking greenish, hoping to distract me from the awful moment when I would look at the paper in my trembling hand and realize the words printed on it made no sense whatsoever. I concentrated on keeping her in the viewfinder, forgetting that photography rule about keeping track of the background so your subject doesn't end up with telephone poles appearing to sprout from her head or any such nonsense. She read, I read, others read. At least our lips moved. The noise of the crowd overwhelmed the PA system, the shoppers not even slowing to gawk. Joe said it was good experience, we'd be better for it the next time.
I asked Gigi later whether the video helped her critique her performance. She said yes. Except that when she viewed it she couldn't take her eyes off the guy with the Cat in the Hat costume posing behind her. Dr. Seuss would have had a moral for that.