A Festival of Friday Fictioneers!

This weekend is the Virginia Festival of the Book–five days of books and their writers in the great Virginia town of Charlottesville. This is my third year to attend and my first to participate. I’ll be doing a reading from a story of mine, which appears in the Blue Ridge Writers 2013 anthology, on Sunday, and Rita Mae Brown will be in attendance. Gulp.

So, first time reading before an A-list author? Check.

Nerves? Check. Big time.

But the story, “Mourning,” is one of my favorites, and I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ll keep telling myself that, and perhaps I’ll believe it by 1300 this Sunday.

Anyway, if you’re within driving distance of Charlottesville, VA, check out the remaining three days of the Virginia Festival of the Book here. I’ll wager you’ll find something you must see.

Friday Fictioneers LogoToday’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt features one of my favorite things–a horse. I was a typical horse geek in my teens. On summer days I’d pack a lunch–for me and the horse–and ride as far as I could, eat lunch, then come back home. Some Sundays, my dad would saddle his horse, and he and I would “ride fence” to check where repairs needed to be made. Those times (and baseball games) made for some great father-daughter talks.

The first book I ever owned was Black Beauty–and it still makes me tear up. I almost had to walk out of War Horse until I figured out it would end happily. There was a time I preferred the company of my horse over any person. Sometimes I wish I still had a horse because they can still be better company than a lot of humans.

Though horses are not the smartest of mammals, they have excellent instinct, and today’s story, “Oh, the Humanity!,” captures how I always thought a horse would sound if they spoke human. As usual, if you can’t see the link on the title, scroll to the top of this page and click on the Friday Fictioneers tab. Then, you can select the story from the drop-down list.

I ♥ My Writers Group!

I’ve written before about my great writers group–SWAG, Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta Group of Writers–about how supportive everyone is, and how I’ve made lifelong friends from being a part of it. Wednesday evening was our monthly social hour and open mic night. This was also the first meeting after we got a nice spread in the Living section of our local Sunday paper. We had a full house of readers and listeners–and lots of first-time-at-SWAG readers. It was probably the best night we’ve had with lots of thoughtful work and lots of laughs.

Why are open mic nights important? I’ll admit when SWAG’s founder, Cliff Garstang, suggested last year that we start doing readings–out loud, in front of people–I was nervous. That’s a tough thing to do, to stand up amid acquaintances and a few strangers and read what you’ve written. And that first time last April, my knees were shaking, and my throat was dry. Afterwards, I remember wishing I’d had a writers group ten years ago when my collection of short stories came out. I did three readings and book signings back then, without a clue as to what I was supposed to do, and the feedback I got was that I read too fast for people to understand what I was saying. At SWAG, I’ve learned to slow down and get across what it is I’m trying to say, and that’s an experience I wouldn’t have had without SWAG.

So, doing open mic readings among friends can help build your confidence for when you’re on that book tour you dream about being on one day.

The other good thing about open mic is you pay a good deal of attention to the exact piece you’re going to read. We get five minutes, so the passage has to be tight, succinct, which means, beforehand, you’ll do some needed editing and revising you might not normally do. That’s always a good thing.

And here’s the best part–it’s great when open mic is over and someone in the audience comes up to you and tells you he or she enjoyed what you read and begins to ask questions about your work. You feel like an honest-to-God writer when that happens. It’s great.

Building confidence, honing your editing skills, and boosting your writer ego–that’s what you get from a writers group. Find one. Join one.