Lesley Residency 5.2
When I got on stage on Friday evening to read from my thesis, following up one of the most brilliant performances of the week, I wasn’t intimidated. I was about as hyped-up as a man can get. Bryan Ballinger, a star of the Writing for Young People section of the program, had just delivered a five-star reading of an early chapter book he’d been working on, and the audience had eaten it up. When the applause died down for Bryan, he introduced me as “the lovely and effervescent Christopher Clark”, and I took that stage with a level of energy I’ve rarely ever experienced.
I’d decided to read from a chapter of my thesis loosely based on the romance that developed between Stephanie and I during on junior year at Bradford. First, I’d wanted to tie in my reading with the lecture I’d given on Dubus the previous day—my description of the campus was an homage to Dubus—and second, I wanted to read something for Stephanie. As I told the audience, while sniffling and tearing up, she’s been my rock for the past seven years, and I really thought she deserved to hear something written, at least partially, for her.
It couldn’t have gone more swimmingly. There weren’t nearly as many laughs as Bryan’s piece elicited, but I received a bevy of compliments later on the confidence with which I read, on the strength of the material (the setting, in particular), and on the “classy breakdown” I’d experienced up there. It’s the fear of any serious artist, I think, that a breakdown like the one I experienced will overshadow the work. But that didn’t seem to be the case. The people seemed to really love it.
And they seemed to really love the rest of the reading, despite the fact that the auditorium’s air conditioning had broken down and we had a couple more people to get through than we did the previous night. Overall, it went exceedingly well. The audience was enormous, the largest many of us will ever read to, and most of them seemed to have a pretty damn good time.
Earlier in the day, I’d gotten the chance to attend solid presentations by Bryan (on the pros and cons of computer graphics in children’s books), Scott (on effectively beginning a short story), and Mary (on literary sex). The afternoon had seen an ice cream excursion in Harvard Square with Scott, Shera, Jill, and Stef (Sara, if I’m remembering correctly, had gone home for a short nap). And the evening following the reading centered around drinks and merriment at Grendel’s, a bar just around the corner from my hotel, where I drank with the usual suspects as well as our favorite faculty mentor, Michael Lowenthal.