After nearly three weeks of waiting, we finally found out who the winners of the English Department Writing Prizes were today. And by golly, I’m one of them. I won first place for a short story I wrote for my flash fiction class entitled “Lobster Boy,” and the Academy of American Poets Award for a poem I wrote for my Independent Study, “Lightning Words.” And I won cash prizes for both, which is awesome and probably the first time I’ve ever been paid for writing something. I am very excited. (Now I need to get my act together and start submitting to literary magazines.)
With this money, however, comes the expectation that we will read our winning pieces to a group of professors and students at an event held by the department. This is where I get less excited. I’ve actually already read “Lobster Boy” to a group of probably 30 or 40 people (students and professors). We all had to read for our flash fiction class. It was pretty painless, but I am not a fan of doing readings. I used to be in Speech and Debate in high school, so you’d think I’d be better at it, but the thing here is that I have to read pieces I wrote. I could get up and read you something I didn’t read (like a humor piece, like I did for two years in Speech and Debate [I was not a debater]), but reading a piece that I wrote makes me feel so nervous and judged and unworthy. Clearly I must be a decent writer, given that I won some prizes, but I’m nevertheless nervous about it.
The thing about poetry and creative writing, at least to me, is that I write it to be read, not necessarily to be read out loud. If I’m reading it out loud, I’m sure it’s much more awkward than the text on the page is. Does it make it better that in my head I know how things should sound if when I say them they don’t sound like that at all? There are lots of arguments for public readings, and against, and I think I side with the against, at least with my own writing. I know there are plenty of people who are great readers, but I don’t think I’m one of them.
Obviously the only choice is to become a famous writer and get a ton of practice.
Here’s to my future fame!
(Just kidding. I don’t want to be famous. Writing is cool, though.)