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How NOT to Do Your Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Fifteen minutes of fame
Fifteen minutes of fame

In March, Lynn, writer, mother and Ottawa blogger, invited me to submit an article to the 2016 edition of Blog Out Loud (#Bolottawa). Held during the Ottawa International Writers Festival, the annual event features ten bloggers reading their favourite post of the past year.

I replied right away. At this stage, the event was an abstract possibility with minimal commitment. Besides, I like Lynn and I was flattered to be considered as a participant by the planning mastermind behind BOLO.

Fast forward to a random Saturday when Lynn emailed me to say that Breathing Space had been chosen to be read at Blog Out Loud. Again, I was flattered and replied I would be here, thank you so much. The event was still weeks away. For once, technically, I could attend. I wrote down the date, time and place and had fun discovering new bloggers on the event’s blog.

Then came April 17. Funny how far-away events eventually happen. Suddenly, it hit me. I actually had to show up, read my article and honour my commitment. I didn’t want to flake on Lynn but I can’t say I was super comfortable with the “reading out loud” part of the deal, which, incidentally was exactly what the event was about.

It was a lovely day, the first real spring day in Ottawa. I plugged in my earphones and headed downtown.

At 13:50 p.m., on the parking lot of the Christ Church Cathedral (one of the few churches Mark hasn’t had the chance to visit), I froze. What the hell was I doing here? I could hear music playing inside and I wondered if this was the right church. If I pushed the massive front door, would I stumble upon a religious ceremony? Shit. Must be the wrong church. And now I was going to give Lynn a heart attack, she had begged us to show up a bit before 2 p.m.

Then I smarten up and found the back door with a giant “Writers Festival” banner.

“Second room on the left”, someone told me when I stepped in.

The church’s basement was huge with many hallways and rooms. I passed a first one, packed with people. “Okay, so it’s not that one,” I thought. “Where is the tiny room with ten bloggers reading their stuff?”

Shit. The big room was the room. Quite an audience too.

I paused at the door and figured I could just turn around, leave and blame Mark for failing to attend—“you know how it is with kids…” Surely, Lynn would understand. But then, I thought, she has three kids and she managed to plan the even. I just have one and my only duty is to show up and read.

Then I saw Lynn walking towards me. She gave me a friendly hug.

Trapped. The downside of not blogging anonymously, putting my real name online with pictures. People can and will recognize you. Damn. No running away now.

I took a seat at the back of the room, going for the “camouflage technique” I resorted to many time in high school when I hadn’t done my homework. Step one, sit far away. Step two, don’t speak, move or get noticed. Step three, pretend you didn’t hear if your name is called—with a bit of luck, everyone will assume you aren’t here and move on to the next person.

While I was camouflaging, I suddenly realize that there was a major F-bomb in the article I was supposed to read. Was it okay to swear in a church? Would I offend everyone? Would I get sued for swearing in church and go to hell?

I didn’t have the time to ponder, Dani Donders from Postcards From The Mothership, the emcee, didn’t just call my name—she actually introduced me. 

I had no choice but walk towards the stage.

I’m happy to report that at least, I didn’t trip.

“Hi,” I said in the mic. “I’m the idiot who forgot to print my own blog article I’m supposed to read… so I’ll read it from my phone,” I explained, waving the device.

The crowd laughed. Thank you, thank you, thank you. One laugh, this was all I needed to realize that people weren’t there to boo me, that my English was just fine and that I could stand here and talk.

Facing a crowd feels strange. I’m used to type on a keyboard, facing a screen and a wall, in my own private sphere—my room, occasionally an hotel room. In a way, I’m aware that what I put online is read and during the writing process, I do keep that in mind. I make sure the sentences flow well, I try to make you laugh, to make you understand my point, to make you say “I feel the same!” I’m not posting inner monologues, I’m trying to share something. Yes, I want to engage you.

But I don’t really know who you are. I don’t know if you read each word carefully, I don’t know if you skim through looking for specific info, I don’t know if you read my articles because the only alternative is counting flies on the wall or if you are looking forward for each new post.

A mix of everything, I suppose. If you don’t like what I write, I will never know. I won’t be hurt. I just won’t be popular but that’s just fine, I gave up on trying to be popular in my early teens anyway.

This time, I was facing real people. Yes, writers are real flesh-and-bone people. Shit. I didn’t want to stumble over words, to read boredom in the audience’s eyes or see that puzzled “I have no idea what she is talking about” look.

I closed my eyes for a split second. Lucky as I am, this is probably when a picture was taken. (Edit: Apparently, I did keep my eyes open long enough for Lynn to snap a picture)

Then I started to talk.

As I was reading my article, I saw and heard people reacting to my words. It was strange but it was also energizing. I felt I made sense, I felt we were connecting.

I walked out—gosh, I can’t even remember if I thanked the audience!—and regained my seat at the back.

“Your words were beautiful, you have a way with words,” a guy sitting close to me whispered as the next blogger was walking on stage.

“I… thank you.” It was all I could say.

I sat here, listening to snippets of life, experiences, touching, funny and true.

Sadly, I had a cold (what else is new…) and I left the room when I started coughing to avoid disturbing everyone.

But I stepped out of my comfort zone. I came, not just for my proverbial fifteen minute of fame but for the experience of connecting with talented writers who stood there and read out loud words they had written in private.

Thank you writers, thank you listeners.

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