Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tonight's signing

My friend, Eric, had sent me a quote last week from a musician who's played in big venues and small. The man was playing to 14 people in a Durham bookstore and said this:

Doesn’t make any difference to me. That’s what professionalism is all about. If there hadn’t been anyone here, we’d have played. You give your best even if there’s nobody there. Music is a gift from God, and you don’t want to cheat God, yourself or the audience.
I've given a lot of half-assed readings in my life. When the audience is one or two people, I've handed over my manuscript and told them they could read it for themselves. This quote made me realize that I've been behaving poorly. Literature is a gift from God, too, and I should both honor it and also always be a professional. So, I'd vowed before tonight's reading to do better than in the past, and I began the event by telling people this story (though failing to give Eric credit; sorry, buddy) and sharing my new resolve.

I hope I did a better than usual job. I think I did. I did a little bit of humor, read a couple of pages from Overthrowing Heaven, and then read three very short chapters from Children No More. The crowd, though small by the standards of a well-known writer, was better than ever before for me there--they actually had to set out extra chairs--and I remain grateful to all those, mostly friends, who came out to see me. I also got to spend time with an old friend and book dealer, Tim, who works at Quail Ridge Books. All in all, a very nice time.

Afterward, a smaller group of us shared a fun and tasty dinner.

If you ever come to a reading of mine and I'm phoning it in, call my lame ass on that crappy behavior. I owe you better.


vampi said...

i "try" to apply that to everything i do, even my job. It's hard, but that's what i was always told as a child, do everything in a manner that will make you proud no matter what. i find on days when the job is stressful, i find some comfort in the fact i did everything i could, and on days i know i was slack, i feel awful.

Mark said...

I've found it odd that I was doing that everywhere except at things like signing. I think I've been embarrassed at the attention of signings, but that has led to poor performances. No more.

steveburnett said...

I first heard that sentiment expressed to me by a musician who was dating a friend of mine in Manhattan, said musician was playing roughly two hundred bar shows a year for a ten year span. I'd gone to see him to say hello from my friend / his girlfriend, and they played two solid hours for four people on a weeknight over at Local 506 in Chapel Hill. The band made at least one fan and Jim and I became friends.

Good reading last night, we enjoyed the evening.

Mike said...

I can't compare how you did last night relative to previous readings since this was the first one I've been able to make it to, but I certainly thought you did a great job! I very much enjoyed it and am glad I was able to make it over to QRB for this one.

Mark said...

I've come to believe it is the right way to be.

Mark said...

Mike, thanks for the kind words.


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