Last Friday night I had my reading and book launch for The Face of Baseball, my chapbook of linked short stories from WhiskeyPaper Press. As promised, there was beer and peanuts and, extra bonus, Crackerjacks!
It was a small, rotating crowd of friends and neighbors. I read in waves and in between we drank beer and talked and hatched great plans for the future of the arts in Madison.
Writing can be a lonely thing. You have to make an exit from the world around you in order to write. You have to live inside your head for extended periods of time. There’s community, too, sharing the pains and frustrations, as well as the joys with other folks who have been down that road.
But unlike performing arts, you don’t often get to interact with your audience as a writer. You imagine who they might be, but you can’t watch their faces as they read your words. I’ve often envied musicians for the immediacy of their art form. They perform their writing. They create collective moments with their words and notes and then they participate in those moments.
I guess a reading is as close as you get to that as a writer. For the first time, you get to be in a room with your words and other people experiencing them. There’s something pretty special about that.
All the stories in this chapbook are set in Madison. They are small town stories about small town people. The stories are sometimes funny and sometimes sad. To be able to read them in a room full of people who love and support me was simply an amazing thing.
It’s easy to think that the best places for writers to live are big cities—Chicago or New York. Living in those places, you’re closer to the power nodes of creative life—publishers and agents and magazine editors. If you have a reading there, maybe someone important will show up. Maybe not.
I know I wouldn’t trade the little roomful of people who showed up at Village Lights Bookstore Friday night for anything. I know that writing stories to those people and for those people is more than enough for me.
You can buy a copy of my chapbook online, here, or at Village Lights Bookstore in Madison.