So Midnight Circus had its first reading, and it was glorious.
those not familiar with Midnight Circus--not enough are--it is EAB Publishing's
flagship publication, a quarterly literary mag that attracts talent
from around the world. That's no joke; the submissions have come from a
worldwide pool. It's awesome.
I happen to be the Production
Manager of this fine publication, which is a pretty simple job despite the fancy title. All I do is make sure that every submission received is reviewed by people far more qualified than me. Well, those types of people are easy enough to find. Once
the stories and poems are whittled down, I format the interior so that the scattered and
various submissions become a book. It's fun. I get that little thrill that comes from creating a new piece of art without all of the torture and agony that often accompanies such an endeavor.
When it comes to the
reading, I wasn't sure what to expect. As mentioned, this was the first one. Things usually go wrong the first time you try something. Would anybody show? Where was this UNO-Kaneko Library? Or is it the Kaneko-UNO Library? What was
EAB thinking with this? Do people really come out to hear writers read?
out, they do. Indeed they do. Somehow or another, I ended up with the job of adding
chairs. Seems like a very Production Manager-y thing to me, so I was all for it. Seats would fill up, new arrivers wouldn't have anywhere to sit, and so I'd go to the back and grab more. Easy enough-- people seemed to arrive in pairs, so I'd grab a couple, set them up, and then grab a
couple more, just in case, knowing nobody else would show up because we were already pretty full.
Then I'd repeat the process.
I think we added an extra 25 chairs to the 30 or so initially present--the people kept coming. It was great.
why wouldn't they come, because the lineup was fantastic. Let's run it down. These aren't all names you might know now, but with any luck, you will soon. A.E. Stueve was killing it as MC. The readers: Jeff Lawler. Carrie Helmberger. Liz Kay. Kristen Clanton. Jeremy Johnson. Barbara Schmitz. Julie Rowse. Karen Shoemaker. All of them have appeared in Circus. Lots of talent, which was evident from the first reader, and they kept on coming. Honestly, this was the first reading I've ever attended, it always seemed to me that it would be a little awkward to hear writers read because it feels awkward for me to share my stuff. Well, I get it now.
Myself, I went through a bevy of emotions. This piece isn't about me,
it's about a great night, but I can't help myself. As these creators kept reading, and knocking the breath out of the room, my
thoughts went something like this:
This is great. Good stuff. Wow,
great writing. This is really good. Ha ha, that was funny. So was that. Holy crap, I can't take it anymore--stop
being good, people, you're making me feel bad. I call myself a writer?
These are writers. I quit. I retire. Finished! Done! Matter of fact, I should just leave the room and return as a simple observer, because who am I to pretend I can lick these people's boots? Go out a wannabe writer and come back as whatever the hell I am.*
And so on. You know, self-doubt and all that stuff. But
then something shifted, and while this great writing continued to come
at me, I had a realization. An epiphany, if you will. I began to think
crazy thoughts, like, well, maybe I do belong here. I thought of things I had written that might lack in certain areas, but can hang in others, and I thought, you know what, I could do this, too. My
work could share the stage with these insanely creative people. Maybe I
don't, um, suck? (Hey, why don't you buy my new short story collection The Legend of Hummel Park and find out for yourself, huh?)
So that was fun.
*This presents a problem, because if writing isn't about figuring out who the hell you are, and who we are, then I don't know what it is.