One of the things I was most looking forward to at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference was reading my work at the open mic. I put a big circle on the schedule so I wouldn’t miss the lunch-time event. My husband, the saint, went out and got me a sandwich so I wouldn’t have to pay $200 for a grilled cheese with four kinds of cheese you couldn’t see, or tromps out in the blazing, hot, humidity. If you’ve been paying attention you know how well I handle that.
I was ready. I hurried to our hotel room where my lunch was waiting, grabbed it quickly and got back downstairs by 12:03, hustling like I was the main event. Nothing but chairs. Mostly empty. No tables. I can barely balance my mind, not to mention my lunch, so I opted to eat in the common room where the tables were large and the conversation always stimulating. Too stimulating. I got wrapped up in a heated discussion about “Fifty Shades of Gray” with several very strong women and had to excuse myself just before it came to blows. “I’d love to stay and wrestle this out, but I’ve got to get to the open mic!”
Too late! Five minutes were allowed to each reader and all of the slots were already full, with a waiting list. No! No! No! While the readers were switching I asked the moderator if I could be put on the waiting list. “That’s full, too. Sorry.” I didn’t cry. I’m so proud of myself. My disappointment was physical.
Sitting in the first row, it was difficult to concentrate because it’s hard to pay attention when you have your big stick out and are self-flagellating. Some of the readers were great, some okay, some not so much. Some read just a little too much, causing the internal editor in my brain to say, “Stop there. It’s a perfect ending.” But they went on.
Soon those who signed up were finished and she started calling names on the waiting list. The first one wasn’t there. Or the second. Or the third. Is there hope for me I wondered, trying not to be pushy. . .okay, not TOO pushy. The fourth read well. The fifth wasn’t there. The sixth got up to read. “Wow,” he said. “And there’s only one more after me.” I started vibrating with hope, the piece I wanted to read, fluttering in my soggy hand.
Up she goes to call the last name. A hush fell over my heart. Yes! Not here! But time was ticking like a hand grenade. It was 1:25 and another class needed the space in five minutes, so they’d need time to clear the crowded room. I started waving my piece over my head and grinning like the Cheshire Cat on Espresso. “Okay,” she said, looking at the length of my piece. “But that’s all you can read!” Last! Perfect!
I leaped to my feet with an energy I don’t have and with both arms over my head in full Rocky pose I said, “You won’t be sorry! I promise you won’t be sorry!” And they weren’t! I nailed it. Better yet, I knew I nailed it! I felt fantastic. . .just like a Rock Star!