And so last night I read a story in public for the first time in what feels like years for Rattle Tales as part of Brighton Festival Fringe. What a night. Nine stories read by their writers in a warm, dark and intimate downstairs bar, packed with humans listening and eating and drinking and generally being wonderful.
I’d forgotten how it feels to read my words to a room full of people. I’d forgotten the particular kind of electric pleasure it is to see – though the spotlights are bright in your eyes – the stillness and openness of an audience, to feel the listening. I’d been nervous all day, though I love reading out loud, and a slug of bourbon hadn’t done much to calm me. But friends and family were there with me and the crowd was eager. As soon as I stepped in front the the mic everything was OK. I breathed and I looked out at the faces and I read my story and page after page fell to the floor. (This is a trick I nicked from Jeanette Winterson whom I’d seen give a lecture a couple of weeks previously, prowling the stage with a sheaf of paper, throwing each page to the ground once its usefulness has come to an end). Someone came up to me afterwards to tell me that they loved the “rock and roll’ way I “just cast the pages aside”. It’s just easier, frankly, but boy does it feel good. So I breathed in the glowing attention of the people gathered there and felt them with me.
It was delicious, intoxicating. The feel of the stage beneath my feet and the lights in my eyes. The rhythm of my words in the air. The sounds hands and voices (and rattles!) exploding in the room afterwards. The people who came to me, congratulated me, breathed words of admiration and thanks and wishes that I would finish my novel quickly for them. What a wonderful night. What a wonderful thing to be allowed to do.
Rock and roll.