VOTM: What was your most unusual experience at a reading?
O’CONNOR: When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I entered an oratorical contest for the local Optimists’ Club. I’d breezed through the school-wide heat, and secured a place in the finals. The competition was held in a motel by the Syracuse airport, in a small conference room looking out onto a runway. A few rows of banquet chairs were filled with adult members of the club, various relatives of the competitors, friends, possibly a few vagrants just looking for a place to sit, furtive couples taking breaks from the kind of clandestine trysts that take place at motels by the airport. My speech was entitled, “Optimism: A Way of Life.” There were three contestants, myself included. I came in third.
SCOTT O’CONNOR is the author of the novella Among Wolves, and the novel Untouchable, which won the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award. His new novel, Half World, will be published by Simon and Schuster in February, 2014. He lives with his family in Los Angeles.
Scott will be reading at 3rdSpace in San Diego on Sunday, Nov. 10 and at Book Show in Los Angeles on Monday, Nov. 11.
VOTM: What’s the most unusual experience you’ve ever had at a reading?
GACHMAN: My first reading was at a comedy theater in Hollywood. I was nervous. I asked a friend to bring me some Beta Blockers, and I took half a pill, just to keep myself from shaking. I figured the other readers would be on Beta Blockers too, or at least drunk. You know, writers. Not so. They were all actors – thespians – people who love rolling around on a stage and emoting. Fine, I can make friends with most everyone, I thought. Why should thespians be any different?
They told us to hang out in the green room, and to my horror all the other readers were doing stretches, voice exercises – one woman was miming. I felt totally alone. I focused on my essay and read and re-read the thing over and over, pretending not to be distracted every time someone yelled out, “ooo-eeee-oooo-aaaa!” or “blah-blah-blah-BLAH!” These people were not easing my nerves.
Nothing too crazy happened after the green room insanity – I got out there and read my essay about crazy people in coffee shops – one man in particular who told me about a play he wrote several years ago where he played a Tampon. If I see someone miming in a green room at a reading again, you can find me by the bar.
Dina Gachman is a Texan adrift in Los Angeles. Her comedic blog Bureaucracy for Breakfast has been featured on NPR and Chelsea Handler’s Borderline Amazing Comedy. She writes comic books for Bluewater Comics, and has written for Forbes, Ask Men, The Nervous Breakdown, Red Bull, Glamour, and Los Angeles Review of Books. She’s on Twitter.