It was time to dust off my vocal chords from my last reading in 2005 at my former college in New Paltz, NY for the Open Pen reading in London.
It was at LXV Books, a tiny, packed to the brim bookstore near Bethnal Green tube station. A place that makes you feel relieved that it still exists while also making you feel guilty for buying books from amazon.
I got there early, as nervous people tend to do, but this meant I got to chat to Sebastian who owns the bookstore or as he said “the bank owns it, I just work here”. Slowly familiar faces entered the shop as the bell above the door dinged.
Browsing books and chatting to my friends calmed my nerves, as did the wine. I finally got to meet the guys behind Open Pen, whom I’d previously only corresponded through email, and once we decided the reading order between me, Kate Ellis and Darren Lee, the two other writers in Issue 4, we headed down the spiral staircase to a place packed with even more books but also chairs and pillows.
As I settled down on a pillow on the floor, trying to tuck my legs into my dress to protect my dignity and not spill my wine, I realized that the place was filling up. It was actually packed. So packed that people had to sit on the staircase!
The reading chair sat under an illuminated book cove and I was the second reader, squished in between the relief of not going first but then also not having to agonize and wait to go last.
I apologized for my voice- firstly, because I’d of course woken up that morning with a sore throat which I tried to rectify with the English method of tea and honey, and secondly, because after living the in UK for 5 years and then returning to NYC for a bit, I’ve been told that my accent is weird.
I tried not to think about how silly the concept of a reading is. One person reading to a room while people shift awkwardly and concentrate in their own specific way. Or the silence in the room. Or my voice going too fast, then hitting my stride and doing what I felt was an overall alright job. It seemed like when I started to actually enjoy the reading, my story was over.
Everyone clapped the obligatory clap. I slinked away back to my seat, chatted to my friends after and then it was off to The Camel nearby for celebratory pies and pints. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit and now that my vocal chords are warmed up I’m on the lookout for my next reading opportunity. My apparently silly accent, be damned!
Read Tessa Ditner’s review of the night here: http://tessaditner.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/open-pen-is-looking-for-writers.html#!/2012/04/open-pen-is-looking-for-writers.html
Keep an eye out for Open Pen’s other upcoming events, a book pub quiz is apparently in the works:
You can read the magazine online here: http://www.bibliotastic.com/ebooks/fiction-short-stories/open-pen-4
And if ever in Bethnal Green, visit LXV Books:
Photos by Danielle Shaw & Ola Moszumanska