My cousin (another Columbia kid) had one of his films chosen for the Humboldt Park film festival, so last night the whole family went to the big premiere. It was a small screening room with only a handful of people, but my cousin couldn't have been more excited. And with good reason; his 15 minute film was fantastic. He blew the other shorts out of the water.
During the film, I looked back at him and saw the excitement smeared across his face. Here was his film, being played to a roomful of people (not just family members or classmates), the project he's been working on all semester, finally released to the public. It may not be the Landmark Cinema, but it's a start.
It reminded me of the first time I read in front of an audience. Columbia College was big on having their students read, wanting them to get used to reading aloud in front of an audience. My hands were trembling, my heart was racing, but to have a bunch of people listen to my work, if only for a minute, was truly thrilling.
I know many authors who hate to read their work aloud. I've seen many get in front of that microphone, take one look at the audience and panic. Others, including myself, can't get enough of it. I don't think it's an ego thing. The work sits on my computer, these pieces of fiction that I've worked so hard on creating, and I finally get a chance to share them with the world (or just a group of creative writing students).
But when you're published, whether it's a book or a short story in a literary magazine, chances are, someone is going to want you to read, and if you've never done it before, it can be a nerve-racking thing. My advice? Read wherever and whenever you can. Practice being in front of the microphone. Even if the work is not finished, it can be a highly effective form of critique to read a work in progress in front of an audience. Do they laugh at the right places? Do they seem interested? Are their eyes glazing over?
Don't know where to read? If you're in Chicago, here are a few places to check out:
Twilight Tales - Weekly readings, lots of open mics, mostly crime fiction and dark fantasy
Reading Under the Influence - Monthly reading, must submit in person the previous month, 750 words or less, the perfect combination of drinking, fiction, and trivia. Not to mention great prizes!
Kate The Great's Book Emporium - Frequent readings on various themes, some open mics, but you can submit to be a featured reader.
Tamale Hut Cafe - Readings every second Tuesday of the month, mostly open mics.
Those are the main ones that are on my radar, but please, comment with your favorite places to read, in Chicago or elsewhere.