Read “to save your life”

Since I am giving several readings in the next little while, I’ve been thinking about how to gear up for being such a public person and to prepare for those times when no one will show up. So I share this with you, from my friend, the writer Michael DiLeo: “As an argument in favor of giving even the most sparsely attended readings, I present the tale of a Texas writer friend who gave a reading of her second book (a memoir) at a bookstore in Baltimore a few years ago. This reading was attended by only one person, a professor of literature from a college in Pennsylvania, who had driven a couple of hours to the reading because he loved the writer’s first book (also a memoir) so much. She told me it felt insanely awkward at first with only that one eager face in the audience, but after a bit she began to read to the man as if she were reading to a lover, and she thinks she gave the best reading she’d ever done. Afterward, they talked and he told her how much and exactly why he loved her first book and how excited he was to read her second. Obviously, she was charmed. He invited her to have dinner, but she realized her publisher had hired a limo and driver for her (this was back in the day when publishers had promotional budgets), so they drove around Baltimore all night, stopping to buy champagne at one point, not ever getting around to dinner. A few weeks later he flew to Texas, asked her to marry him, and now they have children and live in Pennsylvania.
Moral: if you have even one reader, read to him or her like a lover; or, as I tell my students sometimes (after we watch the movie “Slam” for inspiration), read as if you’re trying to save your life.

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