To Slam Or Not To Slam


Writers read. And writers write. And apparently they’re supposed to read what they write aloud in public, too. Back in college I took a lot of great writing classes. Besides writing, I was also involved with publishing an annual campus literary magazine and participating in public readings. My first poetry slam was a piece of cake. This was because I managed to convince my professor to let me help film the event rather than read any of my work.

In some ways, a poetry slam and I should have been a perfect fit. After all, that was the year I was a vegetarian and didn’t wear a bra. I was obsessed with espresso and classic cinema. Had a pixie haircut. Listened to Nick Drake and read Anaïs Nin. But there was something about people born in the 1980s acting like beatniks that made me want to press a beret over my mouth and nose until my limbs stopped twitching. So many bad actors on one stage. The low point of the evening was a Dungeons and Dragons fanatic reading a passage from his ‘favorite book’, Lolita, with enough melodrama to make James Mason sound apathetic. (Peter Sellers was more my type anyway.)

As a writer, I find myself conflicted when it comes to public readings. I did get roped into a couple readings that were class requirements. It has nothing to do with fear of public speaking. I made my share of speeches throughout my school career and have spoken at a few events in the last decade. But I feel like odd woman out in crowds of creative types. I was 10 months pregnant the summer I took an evening French Film History class. Rochester had record summer highs in 2005 and I have uncomfortable memories of sweating like a maniac in a little fourth floor classroom during a screening of Shoot the Piano Player. I’ve never fit in with those people. People who are plugged into the arts scene (whatever that is) and know all about jazz and wine and don’t wake up in the night to find a four-year-old has wandered into the bed.

In the last year my stereotypes have been shattered. I have become acquainted with many normal creative people. Photographers and doctors. Homeschoolers and international journalists. Farmers and filmmakers. Parents and artists. Their creative efforts inspire me in my own. And I have received a lot of encouragement from friends and family who read my work. People who ask questions and go out of their way to tell me they like something I wrote. I really love that my readers have different backgrounds and tastes and a broad age range. Blogging is not a fine art but it has been very good for me.

As I look toward 2014 and turning 30 in a couple weeks I feel like I’m just getting started. I’m looking forward to new projects and attending workshops and writing retreats. Maybe I’ll even have a go at an open mic reading or two. I don’t know where this leaves Upstately. One of my greatest skills is procrastination and I still haven’t decided if I will continue to blog in the new year. I only have so much time to write and I have new work vying for it. Though I’m happiest alone in my new hideaway (pictured above), part of me feels like I need to move on and get out into the real world with my writing. The other part of me isn’t ready to give up writing weekly posts. It’s a mystery. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you at Caffè Lena. I’ll be there with bell-bottoms on.

2 thoughts on “To Slam Or Not To Slam

  1. This is a great post, Nicole. I think it takes awhile to find writing groups that you’re comfortable with. I haven’t been back to any slam events since college either, but I’d definitely give them a try again! I hope you keep blogging, too.

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