Writing and Reading

Spontaneous expression has never been my thing. I’m more of a cogitator; feeling my way through the inner workings of my heart and mind by writing and rewriting until a clarity of understanding emerges. Writing is how I talk to myself before saying something out loud.

“Out loud,” in my case, is the potential to be heard through published writing. Instead of using my vocal cords to broadcast a thought, I put it in front of the eyes of a reader and leave it to them to hear my thoughts spoken through the voice in their own head. This is a sneaky way to be heard, subversive, really. But because the reader is free to make their own judgements about what they’re mentally ingesting, I believe that writing to be read is a benign pursuit.

That dynamic changes when an author stands in front of a gathering and reads their work. Audience members are there voluntarily but once they sit down they’re in group captivity. For someone to get up and leave means abandoning ship before getting to port. Readings are generally presented as written works read aloud, prefaced by off-the-cuff remarks. The author picks passages in advance and assembles a narrative around them to support whatever point they’re intended to make. Words, written silently and in solitude, find themselves insisting to be heard through an amplified speaker system.

Even though I’ve spoken publicly with some regularity over the years, it surprises me every time people let me stand before them and say whatever I want without interruption. The experience for this laconic Yankee is both a dream and a nightmare. Maybe these thoughts exaggerate the reality that writing and reading pose for an author. I’ve granted the subject of a public reading more seriousness than it probably deserves in order to spell out feelings I have about it. So, here I am, back at the beginning, explaining why and how I write.

This past Wednesday I did a reading at the Aldrich, Barre Vermont’s public library, a beautiful old edifice that well serves its modern patrons. Excerpts from my three published books were assembled under five themes and read from newest to oldest. Audience members remained in their seats for a full hour! The after-questions were intelligent and sincere. I’m grateful to all who came to listen and converse.

Thanks to Loren Polk, Interim Director of Aldrich Public Library for her introduction, and to John Poeton, York Branch, for hosting the event.

Thanks also to Trow and Holden for sponsoring my talk, and to the Friends of the Aldrich Library and the Northfield Savings Bank for funding the Summer Author series.