Reading Out Loud

I was one of those kids in school whose hand shot up when the teacher asked for someone to read out loud. I loved the sound of words and I loved that I could read them, especially when I could read them to others. Maybe it was from my dad who liked to read the newspaper out loud. Maybe it's because I grew up in a big family and reading in class meant small moments of attention all on me -- even though it wasn't really on me, it was on those words. Still, I liked attention. I still do. As a writer, I jump at the chance to read one of my stories out loud. To other people. So I was tickled last night to read at the First Wednesday Reading co-sponsored by Oregon Literary Review and Blackbird Wine Shop.  But I confess, as I always do before a reading, I got a bit nervous in the days ahead. I'd been on the April schedule for awhile and had been looking forward to it. Then about a week ago, I went into a panic. I'd sent out a notice to friends. What if they all showed up and I bombed? What if no one showed up? What if my funny story didn't seem funny to anyone? Why did I think this would be fun?

Then the reading day came around. I practiced reading my story alone and then a run through with Bill. I simmered down. When I actually got up to read, I looked out at the audience: friends, family, writers, strangers -- all those open smiling faces. I felt how much everyone wants everyone to do well, to be happy with themselves. I read. Out loud. I HAD A BLAST! Plus, I got to share the night with three other writers sharing their wonderful stories.

Stories sound different when they're read to others. It's a strange thing -- the way the sound changes, from reading it silently, to reading it out loud to myself, to reading it to others. I learn things about a story when I say it out loud--something I missed before, something that is working or not working.  I think it's like that not just with the written word, but with the stories we have in our heads, the troubles we may be having.  If we talk them out, they shift and change shape, they become more manageable, easier to carry and make sense of. Is it that way for you?

Jackie Shannon Hollis