First of all, I have to say that this was the coolest thing that's happened to me, as a "writer" so far (aside from having my favorite chick authors give me shout-outs on Twitter, because that was freaking amazing). Do you know about Listen To Your Mother? Started a few years back by the incredible Ann Imig, it's a show that takes place on or around Mother's Day in which local writers read a piece they've written that pertains in some way, shape or form, to motherhood.
To be honest with you I can't remember how I found out about it, pretty sure it was on one of my favorite local blogs, These Little Waves. Or Marketing Mama. (oy..I'm link-a-licious today, sorry). But the point is, I found out that they were going to be doing a Twin Cities show (for my non-Minnesota friends, that is what some people call the Minneapolis/St. Paul area even though for all intents and purposes you could really just say Minneapolis. We had Prince.). And I read over their mission statement, thought about it for oh..maybe two seconds and then submitted a piece. The deadline for submissions was February 15th, and on that morning I second guessed my submission and decided to submit a different one. That was the one they asked me to read at my audition, so YAY for self-doubt, right?
I got the audition email on a Saturday, and for the entire next week I freaked out. I freaked out silently, I freaked out loudly, I freaked out alone in my car and in front of my kids. The night before the audition, a few of my sweet hens gathered at my house to offer support, drink wine and eat Girl Scout cookies. They listened to me read my essay, and then one of them suggested something different: Gillian said, "How about I read it, to you?". At first I was all..huh? But then she started reading it. And writer friends, let me tell you...have a friend read something of yours, out loud. Just do it. It was an almost transcendent experience (I'll admit that the wine and cookies added to the magic) and as far as prepping for something like a live reading goes..it was AWESOME. It made me see that yes, I can sort of write, and the story I chose to read was a good one. Plus I wanted Gillian to tuck me in and read Goodnight Moon to me but that's another story for another therapy session.
So the morning of the audition arrived. I decided that maybe having wine the night before wasn't the smartest thing to do but just between me and you I think drinking it kept my head from exploding so there you go. I chose to not buy any new clothes for the audition, partly because I'm broke and also partly because I am massive right now and don't want to spend my non-existent money on clothes this size. Instead I perused my collection of burkas and decided upon a gray sweater burka that has served me well this winter. Yes, it is kind of pilly and all but it does a nice job of hiding my midriff and also accenting my slender wrists.
I went out on a limb as far as my bottom half goes, and instead of the usual yoga pants I wore the single pair of jeans that fit me right now. They are about as Mom Jeans as it gets but the spandex to cotton ratio is such that it doesn't hurt when I sit down in them. I added my insanely crazy black Danskos and there you have...THE AUDITION OUTFIT. And yes, I'm cringing as I recall it.
My hair? Forget it. I decided to wear it down, which means I walked into the room looking like the lovechild of Michelle Duggar and Doug Henning. In hindsight, I should have either put it up in my usual School Marm bun or gone to my friend Kathryn's fabulous hair place for my biannual shearing. But whatever. It's over and done and I'm praying that my words overshadowed my frizz.
The actual audition was, to be truthful, anticlimactic. I had built this up into something huge and scary and imposing...AND IT WASN'T ANY OF THAT. There were three women in the waiting area when I got there, and because we all are kind of the same sort of person we ended up gabbing and laughing. Two of them left, and then the woman before me went in for her audition. I'd like to say I am all professional and spent this time rehearsing my own stuff but I didn't. I eavesdropped. And she killed it, man. She read like a seasoned stage actress, with the right timbre and inflections and by the time she finished I was crying. Sitting on a folding chair in the skinny hallway of a spooky-ish warehouse, crying.
And the women she was reading to? They burst into applause. Literally, burst. I imagined her in there, taking bows and catching roses being thrown at her by her now-adoring fanclub sitting in her audience.
When she was escorted out I couldn't stop myself and gave her a hug. Because I'm on some sort of spectrum, I'm sure of it. Like, the "can't discern between creepy and friendly" spectrum. I'm a hugger. She hugged back, though, so I don't think it was too weird.
I was ushered in, and of course at this moment realized that I hadn't printed out enough copies of my essay. The ladies were cool about it though and put my psycho mind at ease.
I also discovered that when I'm nervous, I turn into Henny Youngman. "Take my wife, please" except I got all jokey with the ladies.."I'm a preschool teacher and I read aloud every day..it would calm me down if some of you could squirm in your chairs or pick your noses or start crying, okay?" Awkward pause. And then they laughed. I also explained to them that I tend to rock back and forth when I read, and not to worry about it. I think the only thing I didn't do for them is my Dustin Hoffman/Rainman impression. Nervous Jenny is not a pretty sight, friends.
And then I read. My voice came out thin and high and reedy, and somewhere along the line I developed a nervous-sniff thing after every paragraph. It went:
Read, read, read. Sniff.
Read, read, read. Sniff.
Like a cokehead giving a speech. And then, in the middle of my sweet and moving piece about motherhood, I stopped and said out loud:
"Gahh..I don't know where this sniffling is coming from. I'm sorry."
Yep. I did that. And at that exact moment, I actually felt their attention slip..I had interrupted them, like a good dream being disturbed by the alarm clock. If the floor could have somehow opened up beneath me, and sucked me down into a swirling vortex waterslide-thing, it would have been nice.
But the floor remained intact, and I kept reading. When I was done, there was no burst of applause, no tears. Somehow, I felt worse than I had when I walked in the door. The ladies? They were fabulous. Praised me, said nice things, offered me chocolate. All of the insecure crap I was feeling was of my own doing. My least favorite personality trait, you know...when will I ever grasp the concept of liking myself? Being my own biggest cheerleader? I do it for everyone else in my life, but the person who needed it most that day was me, and I let myself down.
As I drove home I rehashed the entire thing, and all I wanted to do was go eat something. William and Henry were with Big Daddy that weekend, so I went home and talked to my Molly a bit. And then we sat on the couch together and watched a couple episodes of Shark Tank. She and I laughed and gabbed and I was reminded of just how much I love my daughter. By the end of the day, my nerves were not so jangly and I decided that no matter the outcome, this was a really cool, really empowering experience.
So, to sum it up, here is what I took away from the day:
1. Print out as many copies of your piece as they say, and then print a couple more and put them in your purse. Just in case.
2. Drink some water before you go in. You may think you're Rico Suave cool but your throat will get dry. And the last thing you want is a coughing fit.
3. Have someone read your piece to you. It helps.
4. Be gentle with yourself.
5. For God's sake, don't sniff. And if you do? DON'T STOP READING TO POINT IT OUT.
6. Map out your drive to the audition. Google that address and map it out. Because flipping out over directions will not help your nerves. I did this, by the way, because I know myself too well. I wrote out the directions in Big Preschool Letters and clutched that sheet of paper the whole way there. It was comforting.
They won't announce the Twin Cities cast for a few days. And you know what? I'm not going all batshit crazy with worry about whether or not I made it. If I do make it, I'll scream and laugh and shout it from the rooftops.
But if I don't make it? That'll be okay, too. It will hurt, no matter how tough I pretend to be, and there will be small, sharp pangs of envy and rejection, but it will be okay.
Because I did this, on my own. I write words for therapeutic reasons, and sometimes my words, they come out pretty. To have them recognized in this way was an honor, no matter if I "make it" or not.
In my little world, I've already made it.
Writer friends? Please, if you see this awesome group come to your neck of the woods, go for it. You won't be sorry.
I'm not. Not one sniffing, rocking, Michelle Duggar bit.