Over time, I've learned what works, what doesn't work, and with the helpful feedback of my wife, I've changed the format to be even better than it once was. In the old format, I did all my readings, then photos, and then the video trailer. She thought it might be better if I worked the photos across the whole presentation, which gives people a way to relate to the story.
She also gets jolted every time I mention in my talk to the group that my father was murdered in 1967. "Just say he was killed," she says. I see her point, but part of the whole thing is to shock people a little bit. Not to mention that murder is what it was. No watering that down. One thing's for sure, it always grabs their attention.
It's always interesting to see where each talk takes me. I've had a number of people share stories with me after my presentations. Most of them are somehow related to the BWCA, but not always. People will tell me their tragic stories in part because they can relate to me telling mine. In that way it's a bit therapeutic for both of us.
The West Bend gig was the last one on the immediate docket. I am currently working with seven different libraries from all over Wisconsin on future dates. The only set date thus far is December 9th when I'll be at the Waterford Public Library.
The other interesting part of yesterday was my second interaction with the group known as Waukesha Open Poetry. This is a group of people that gets together on the second Saturday of the month to share and talk about poetry. During the summer months they meet in a local park, so they refer to those gatherings as Poetry in the Park.
It is a small group, yesterday there were only five of us, and the first time I met with them, there were only about 8 of us. The thing I like about this group is they are total free spirits. Most of them simply hand write poems in journals and bring them to read. I sense that there is no pressure or urgency to submit or get anything published by the members. They are writing just for writing sake. Just for fun and joy. In fact yesterday made me feel like a big blowhard because I kept referring to "getting published" or getting into a workshop, etc. It seems that everyone is quite content just having fun with it.
It also made me a bit envious too. There was a day when I first started writing the stories that ultimately turned into Dirty Shirt where I was just writing for the joy of reading it in class - or the joy of just writing it at all. Now it seems, whenever I write something, I always have a publishing agenda behind it. While that's not a bad aspiration to have, it kind of supplants that initial joy. And while I get the fact that if you're not publishing stuff, then no one's reading your work, I also think there's a place for not caring.
A couple of the women in the group said that their mother had a couple of books worth of material in a garbage bag. This was work the mother had put her heart and soul into. For whatever reason, she chose not to do anything with it. My question is, who am I to judge whether that is wrong? Maybe she got enough joy from writing that it was sufficient unto itself? Or maybe she had an inner critic that kicked her but and made her feel like her work sucked? I have one of those that I constantly have to beat down.
So, to finish my rambling, my point is this group is a relatively undisciplined bunch. (No offense to any of you who might be reading this, of course.) Some of them brought only one work to read to group. Others talked about how they should write more, but just don't. Most of them fit the mold of "anguished artists" than most writers I usually hang around. And as I said, there's something attractive in their lackadaisical mentality. I think writing needs a healthy balance of both this and the more structured habits I've fallen into.
And I aim to incorporate some of these laissez faire attitudes into my writing life soon enough.