Last Sunday I attended my first full Mystery Writers of America meeting. I have kind of dropped in to meetings before but have had to leave quickly. This past Sunday felt like the first day of high school. I walked into a room, completely self-conscious about my hair, my clothes, and wondering if my breath smelled pleasant. I said’ Hello’ to a few people who I have worked with in applying and submitting a blog post.
The writers were on break from the first half of the reading series. So, people were standing around, drinking beer, cocktails, eating French Fries and other awesomely looking bar food. I took a seat in a booth in the back, way back of the room, and hid.
The meeting was again called to order and the host proceeded to read an author’s bio and introduction. The first new reader came to the stage and read from her novel. While I was listening to the reader I was wondering if I was going to be called to read. I had emailed MWA a few weeks prior to state my interest in reading, but I wondered if they had forgotten. No one had asked me for a bio, so maybe I wasn’t going to read. I started to have anxiety. I have not read in public since before my kiddo was born, that was almost a year ago.
Another reader was called up. Then another. All of the readers had a novel, or novels! They were all splendid. Then I heard “Cynthia Pelayo.” Oh dear. They did have my bio. I was going to read in front of these wonderful writers. My look of terror was evident when the host asked if I was going to read. I nodded and dug my hand into my messenger bag and took out my computer. “What am I going to read?” I thought. I had an idea what I was going to read. I had even practiced, but it was a new piece and it wasn’t yet published and I felt…embarrassed.
I got to the stage and briefly introduced myself and explained how my attendance at meetings was lacking since I was a new mom and kiddo needed my time. I looked at the title of my story and thought “Should I really read this? This is a really graphic story.” It is titled “Lake” and I proceeded to read three pages of my short story. I found myself censoring language as I went along, afraid of the graphic content in this urban myth serial killer tale. When I finished I sort of just scampered off the stage, but there was clapping! Very loud clapping and my hand was not just grabbed once, but four times by other authors in the crowd saying “That was wonderful.” My heart was racing and I was so happy and I thought “I’m doing this. I’m a writer.” I stayed for the remainder of the reading, and afterward shared stories with a police sergeant who is also an MWA member and other writers. One of the writers, told me to send him my novel, short story collection and to keep writing what I had just read.
The MWA meeting was such a great injection of energy. I needed that, needed a reminder that I am good. I am a writer.