Book Slam, Charleston, Cheryl Powell, competitions, control, Grit Lit, literature, Lonny Pop, Lucy Flannery, Peter James, Rattle Tales, reading aloud, short stories, spoken word, TEDx, The Brighton Prize
Last night I did something I’ve never done before. It was the awards show for the 2015 Brighton Prize and I am lucky enough to be one of the Directors. We wanted as many of our ten shortlistees to read as possible, fortunately our winner Lucy Flannery was there to read her prize-winning story, Calm Down Dear, but our two runners up, Tamsin Cottis and Cheryl Palmer couldn’t make it. I offered to read Cheryl’s story Mermaid for her. I loved this story from the first round of reading, it was very striking and original and had a poetic rhythm to it fitting to the title. When I was practising in the afternoon I realised that I hadn’t ever read somebody else’s work to an audience.
I made my stage debut five years ago, when I read at Brighton’s Grit Lit event in December 2010. I was absolutely petrified and on last! Somehow I managed to get through without anyone guessing how nervous I was. I thought that my right leg was shaking so much that people must have seen it but nobody mentioned it. What people did do was come up and congratulate me on my reading. Since then, I have read my own work many times, usually in dingy cabaret bars but also in festival tents and university conferences. I am always nervous but it does depend on what I’m reading. If a story is very personal to me I will be terrified, if I have any doubts about what I’m reading my hands will tremble and my mouth will dry. Sometimes, when I know it’s good, when people I trust have told me it’s my best, I will be more in control.
On Friday I went to the TEDx talks at The Brighton Dome. The theme this year was Losing Control. All the speeches addressed the relinquishing of control as a positive experience, the act of venturing out of our comfort zones making us better humans, more open, able to live up to our true potential. These talks made me think of my own experience reading my writing to an audience. At one point my nerves were so bad that I had a form of hypnosis to try and tackle the root cause. It worked, up to a point, but I always have a little bit of stage fright, I always stumble a bit over my words or suffer from shaky hand syndrome. Last night was the exception. I think because the words weren’t mine I could read without fear. I didn’t feel nervous at all. It was probably my best reading. Now comes the tricky bit. It’s okay to be a bit nervous but I would like not to be. I would like to be able to read my own stories the way I read Cheryl’s. To be in control. Then again, perhaps losing control makes me a more emotional reader and helps get the message across with more impact. Whichever it is, I know that if I want to be a writer I have to keep on doing public readings, it’s part of the game, and if you want to be a writer you will need to do them too. So, deep breath, let yourself go.
The winner of the Brighton Prize 2015, Lucy Flannery, with our host Lonny Pop. The shortlist and details of the prize are on our website www.brightonprize.com