Nothing Like a Reading

One reason I worried about moving to a more rural area was that I thought I would be cut off from one of my favorite MFA traditions: readings. I love readings. Famous writers, obscure writers, peers — doesn’t matter. There’s something about a writer presenting his or her own work that’s just awesome. Obviously some writers are better readers than others. Many are too shy to give the kind of performance you might want from a reading. But for me, it’s largely about the interaction. Here is a writer. Here is a (usually) sympathetic audience. See how they interact.

So I thought, moving here, that I wouldn’t be able to attend readings. Not so at all. Sometimes you just have to know where to look. E.g. the local college has a thriving creative writing program with a generous endowment to bring a variety of writers to my neck of the woods. And if that weren’t enough, there’s DC.

One of the benefits of the (relative) proximity of the nation’s capital is I have been able to take part in that area’s many literary events. I know DC has a bad reputation for the arts, as it’s so immured in politics. But with organizations like the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress championing arts programming — well. They do pretty okay.

Case in point, last week I attended the National Book Festival, which the LoC puts on annually. I saw some of my favorite authors and others I only know by name. My favorite reading/presentation of the day was by renowned children’s horror writer R.L. Stein, pictured below.

It was especially exciting to see Stein because I, like many people at the event, belong to the generation of kids who grew up reading him (especially the incredibly popular Goosebumps and Fear Street series). He even acknowledged us in his discussion, saying that he had written his novel for adults, Red Rain (due out October 9), with us in mind. You should have heard the cheers. That is what I love about readings, friends, that relationship between reader and writer made visible.

Tonight, I am excited to say I’ll be attending another reading in the DC-Metro area: Neil Gaiman is reading at George Mason’s Fall for the Book. I can’t wait.


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