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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Denouement: In praise of the audience

The Lambda Literary Foundation co-sponsored Bi Lines III the night after the awards ceremony. I was scheduled to read last. This fulfilled the other dream of an American writer: to give a reading in Greenwich Village, in a room resembling a church basement, complete with piano.

(The droll expression indicates the voice of Edith, Arusha's hero.)

My lasting impression of that evening: The audience was absolutely fantastic. They did everything right, thereby overcoming any challenges we may have had, starting with the acoustics. Here are the things these wonderful men and women did, that I try to do and recommend everybody at readings should do:

1. They filled the seats. Granted, this is not something any individual audience member can control. But a room full of people is halfway to a successful reading no matter what else happens.

2. They listened. It wasn't always easy (see above). But the people in this room seemed to be there out of genuine interest. They could have been driving somewhere for the Memorial Day weekend, or in the bar with their friends, but they spent their Friday night at a reading instead. Cool.

3. They applauded every writer, musician, and photographer.

4. If they were there as friends of one performer, they did not leave when their friend's time was up. They stayed to The Bitter End (as one of the old folk clubs in the area was called). In other words, to hear me, who knew almost no one in the room.

5. Afterwards, they talked to us, asked questions, expressed interest in our books. I would not have blamed them if they had been ready to go home!

Audience, and readers everywhere: thank you. Whether or not you are writers also, readers are the reason we write. The folks at Bi Lines III truly impressed me by showing what my old band director always exhorted us to show: class. An old-fashioned concept, I know--like courtesy and reading from the printed page. Thanks a lot.

Signing books with Bobbie Geary (far left), Audrey Beth Stein (third from right), and Herukhuti (far right).

Photography: Efrain Gonzalez

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