So. I said I would write about YoungArts , and I want to, don’t get me wrong. It was a fantastically awesome experience and I want to share...

YoungArts Miami 2016: Reading and Risks

So. I said I would write about YoungArts, and I want to, don’t get me wrong. It was a fantastically awesome experience and I want to share it with everyone and tell all of the talented, young artists to apply... but I don’t really know how to write it out. That week, March 8th-13th (it’s not even last week anymore, WHAT THE HECK????!!!), was so full and fantastic that I don’t even know where to start.

But I’m a writer. So I guess I better figure it out.

Me, the other writers, our teacher, and one of the jazz musicians.

Before we got there, I assumed we’d spend all of our time in Master Classes, doing workshops, editing pieces, and generally learning how to perfect our craft; in reality, we spent about half the week doing that--the other two days were presentation prep--but every one of those classes was awesome. I learned a TON--everything from writing poetry to managing finances as a creative, from how the book market actually works to being comfortable sharing mywork (even crappy new pieces) in front of others. We also visited the most beautiful bookstore I have ever seen, and I would literally return to Miami just to visit it again.

The book ladder, though! *fangirls ridiculously hard*

But I think that the part I’ll always remember the most, the part that literally makes my heart race, even now, every time I think about it, is the Cinematic Arts Screening, Jazz Performance, and Writers’ Reading on the evening of Thursday, March 10th, 2016.

I had never read my book in front of anyone before. Like ever. Not even in a workshop setting, so even the process of picking the piece I would read and reviewing it in front of my fellow writers was terrifying. I actuallysaid I felt like I was dying when I finished reading during workshop the first time.

(Shhhhh. I wish I was a fierce dragon warrior, FEAR ME, and I am (sometimes). But more often, I am actually a small, awkward cupcake, whom one of my best friends has actually called a turtleduck. So yeah.)

Anyways, when it came to my reading, I was apparently not breathing. Or speaking coherently. Or doing anything, really, other than screaming on the inside audibly. This, of course, bode wonderfully well for my performance in less than 36 hours.

I spent the entirety of Wednesday afternoon (the 9th) working with our Master teacher and the other writers; by the end of the day, after reading my piece at least 6 times and dying a little less with each one, I started to feel more confident about the presentation. If I wasn’t good, I at least wouldn’t be bad; if I was forgettable, I at least wouldn’t be infamous.

Believe it or not, I was actually okay with that. Maybe a little too complacent, but remember, I was still trying to notdie, so, you know, I had to pick my battles wisely.

Wednesday evening, we collaborated with the jazz musicians to compose some music that matched our pieces. I had to read again, with somewhat less terror permeating being, but I made it through, and they were able to work out a beautiful blues piece that I wish I had a copy of, but don’t, because that’s part of the beauty of jazz: you kinda have to be there.

Over the course of Thursday, I read and I read and I read again. I grew in confidence, and, in spite of the anxiety still stewing in the pit of my stomach, I managed to get kind of excited about the coming performance. Maybe, just maybe, I could actually do this.

Then all of the sudden, the day was gone; we were changing into our fancy, schmancy dress clothes; we were taking our seats; the jazz coordinator was reading his welcome address; the pieces before mine were playing: two films, a fellow writer reading, a jazz performance...

And then I was up. My heart started throbbing. I could actually feel the surge of fear, like an electric shock shooting up my chest, settling as a needling pressure in my temples. I forced myself to my feet--and accidentally grabbed my cell phone instead of the anthology I was supposed to read from. Luckily, I did remember and turn back for it before I reached the stage and before the applause for the previous piece had ended.

Then I was at the stairs, the pianist was playing my intro, and I was supposed to walk on.

I breathed; and then I set my foot on the first step.

I honestly don’t remember hearing my intro that time. Obviously, I know it played, but I was 100% focused on one, not tripping over anything as I walked across the stage (you think you’re clumsy? You’re talking to a girl who has actually tripped over her own two feet and who trips or falls or bumps into something almost daily), and two, adjusting the microphone since I was slightly taller than the girl who went before me and I wanted to make sure everyone would be able to hear me speak.

No, that thought absolutely did not strike fear into my heart; I have no idea what you’re talking about.

And then the music ended, and my voice began.

My mouth was dry, chills were running up and down my arms, but I read. I read like I’d practiced for the last day and a half, breathing, pausing, enunciating each word to make sure the audience could feel the full effect of my piece. I peeked up every once in a while to make sure the people in the one row I could see weren’t leaning forward to hear my voice, but by the middle of my piece, I had forgotten they were there. I forgot I was on stage, I forgot people were watching me, I forgot to be terrified, and I just let myself get lost in my narrative. The writing was lightyears from perfect of course, but I remembered what I loved about my characters, why they’d enchanted me with their story in the first place; I remembered why I loved writing, and I remembered that I had always wanted to share those loves with other people.

I reached the final words of my piece. Capital letters scribbled in blue gel pen reminded me 

And so I did. And then I walked offstage.

The cheering was... enthusiastic, I imagined, more than just polite. I made eye contact with our teacher, Joan, as I returned to my seat, and she raised her hands a little higher and cheered a little louder.

I grinned. I’d done good. If nothing else, I had done good.

People told me later that I had a great performance, that I was moving, even effing incredible. Especially compared to some of the other writers, I don’t know that I believe those compliments, which is perhaps not very charitable of me as that would be to accuse those people of lying, but regardless, I knew that I had done well, and not only that, I’d had fun doing it. Now don't get me wrong, handing my heart over to the mercy of the masses still absolutely terrifies me--but I love it. And honestly, I would love the chance to do it again, although I reserve the right to freak out extensively and possibly require CPR at some point prior to the performance.

I’ve had this idea for a linkup floating in the back of my head for a while, where every month or two, I would do something completely outside of my comfort zone and post a blog/vlog about how it went. Maybe the experience would be horrible, maybe it would be awesome, but I would take a risk and try something new; maybe I’d discover that I loved it, maybe I’d discover that I hated it, but I would discover something, something new about myself. And that discovery just might make all the difference for me.

All of that to say: one, here’s the video of the performance, and two, let me know what you guys think about starting that monthly linkup (or perhaps a bi-monthly. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone can be incredibly traumatizing after all). Hope you all enjoy the video, and I hope to see you in the comment section! :D

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  1. This is so awesome! You read really, really well, like I couldn't tell you were nervous if it wasn't for the entire post about it. The linkup sounds really awesome *thinks of outside comfort zone things* I'm really intrigued by your story. Is the main character a boy or girl? What part of the novel is it from. (or is it a novel?)

    1. Thank you so much!!! :D And I'm glad you like it. If it seems like people will do it, I might try to set it up around the end of the month. :)

      Thank you!! It's a boy, and yeah, the piece is from a novel. :) I've talked about it on here a few times; if you'd like to read those posts, they should be under the 'My WIPS' tab. :)

  2. You did amazing, and you have a lovely voice. Your writing is great too!
    You go girl!

  3. ALEXA!!! That was absolutely stunning! And you're beautiful (though I always knew you were; it was a fact), you write fantastically (again, fact), you did that with such confidence... Just gaah! Happiness is floating everywhere! ;3

    1. THANK YOU!!!

      Oh my goodness, thank you so much!! <3 <3 <3 After reading your comment, I have happiness floating everywhere too, lol. THANK YOU <3

  4. Your reading was so awesome! I thought you did a good job of making it serious and poetic while also throwing in a splash of humor in there, too. :) Excellent work. ALSO A LINKUP THINGIE ABOUT DOING THINGS THAT SCARE YOU IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA DO IT DO IT DO IT and maybe I would do it too if like I had that kind of braveness in me that day, lol.

    I'm glad you had an awesome time, and also, excellent video!

    1. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! :D <3

      And cool! I'm gonna see if I can figure out how to do it sometime within the next few months. :)


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