I spent my morning making buttons and watching YouTube videos of Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. Mason came home early from work and arrived just in time to take over button making so I could get dressed. Boo "helping" me make buttons for the launch.
“I need to dress like I don't care, because I can't look like I'm trying too hard--”
But I dressed like I cared. Like we still live in a time where being a writer is cool, where it's still something that makes us dangerous and unique. I wore my favorite black short-sleeve “pin-up-esque” dress with a faux-corset over top, over my black leggings and space shoes. And my screw-back earrings. I thought about finding something that belonged to my parents or my sister, but nothing matched and I felt out of time.
I transformed into Michelle, the author. At least on the outside. Inside I was still shaking like a leaf. We gathered up the buttons I had made and hit the road. We got to campus and Mason turns to me, “What do I call your teacher? Mr. Frey? Professor Frey?” “Uh, Jonathan?” I honestly couldn't remember, we don't usually refer to him by name in class, and my emails always just said Jon. As soon as we got on campus though, I spotted Mr. Frey leaving the area where the release party was. He said hello, introduced himself to Mason as “Jon,” and that he was glad to see me. It made me feel a little better before heading to the launch party.
I wasn't too nervous as I went down the stairs. A table greeted us covered in pretty orange booklets. I dropped off the buttons I had made and people were pleased. I met the editors of the Trestle Creek Review, Quincee Nuffer and Danielle Combs. I met the gentlemen who was going to introduce me, Dillon Harmison. He was very nice and asked “How do you want me to introduce you? Do you want me to use the biography from the book?” “Yes, please.” I remembered it was short and sweet. I was going to go fourth—it was poetry, prose, poetry, prose.
Roger Dunsmore read first with his poem “Crew Boss,” and a few other poems. He also shared a story about the bear “Scarface” from Yellowstone National Park that was recently killed, which inspired him to read another of his poems about bear encounters. [An article can be found here from the TIME Magazine]. After the event, I approached Roger and he said I did a good job on my reading, that the fear in my voice actually added to the tension of the story. He asked Mason for the spelling of my name and personalized the inside of my book:
Keep up the good writing,
Georgia Tiffany read a few of her poems, including “On the Lost Side of the House.” Later, I met with Georgia (I believe she goes by Georgi) and she said she really liked my story and that I did a good job reading it. She told me I should consider poetry, too, and she signed my copy of the Trestle Creek Review and it reads:
“Writing – Reading – Love!
Try poetry, too!
She didn't have her copy available for me to sign, which is just fine; but I did remark that I loved her signature. “My signature is awful,” I insisted. “But it's yours.” She replied with a smile. Usually, I'd have exited the conversation at that point-- “I have a story for you,” she said and put her hand on my shoulder briefly, “I had a friend, once, from Somalia, and she said 'I don't understand America, you're all taught to write exactly the same!' In Somalia, a signature is considered precious, a defining characteristic. I wonder what my signature says about me?” Then she laughed and went away.
I've forgotten the exact reading order—but Josh Misner, a teacher at North Idaho College, read his story “Tailgate.” He also shared his story that many years ago he had submitted his story to the Trestle Creek Review and been rejected, and it actually kept him from writing and submitting for a long time. He now felt that, after many trials by fire with agents, publishers and editors and after having been successfully published—that he should try to apply to Trestle Creek again. And he was delighted to be accepted.
I found Jois Child and asked her to sign her poem, and I believe she also read from a collection outside of the Trestle Creek Review.
I don't really remember much leading up to the reading, I remember that the last reader's poems were impossibly short and they should just keep reading so everyone would forget I had something to read... Everyone was more experienced at reading, they thanked the Trestle Creek Review for the opportunity or shared a fun story about a past experience. I walked up and said, “Thank you. Please don't make me say anything else.” And then I started reading. I could feel my stomach ache, my voice was shaking, I was so afraid I was going to lose my place in the story. I remember thinking that I had to add some attitude to the story, I couldn't just spit it out flat. My voice felt and sounded higher than normal. But then it was over: no one threw a rotten tomato at me or a cabbage or boo'd me off stage. I survived, but it did remind me that some day I'll have to take a Speech class and that's going to be really, really, really awful.
Since extra credit was offered for getting signatures—a couple of my class mates and some people I didn't know asked me to sign their copy of the magazine. It was the first time (perhaps second) that I've ever been asked to autograph anything. It was superficial but it was touching in a way. I knew my teacher had engineered the situation so we “felt” like real, established authors. It worked.
And if you don't want to watch the video, I have also made just the audio available for whatever reason: