Public speaking has always given me anxiety. No matter if it’s in front of a classroom, in an office meeting, in front of five people or twenty. I find it nerve-wracking, but I still do it so I don’t get out of practice. The literary magazine alongside the Georgia Writer’s Association held a poetry reading at my school campus the other day, and I ended up being the introduction speaker. Yes, I stumbled over some words and tried so hard not to read directly from my notes, but I got through it. We were also giving a retirement present to the program’s director, who has been the director of the professional writing program for almost 30 years. None of us want him to go, but we’re happy for his retirement. Perhaps he can continue writing amazing books. (He is the author of Bombingham which I read in my undergrad and it was nothing short of amazing.)
Next up, was husband wife writing team, James Braziel and Philip Levine Prize winner Tina Mozelle Braziel. They live in a glass cabin in a small town in Alabama, and it was fascinating to learn about that. They are currently writing a book about the building process and living there.
James read one of his short stories with such ease; his voice grabbed me and pulled me into the story immediately. Tina read us some poems about her love of water, and various bodies of water. All of their pieces sent me into the south and full of memories growing up filled my mind along with stories I could churn from my own experiences with living in a small southern town. I got to talk to them afterward, and both live in Alabama, so we talked about being from Alabama and it was fun discussing places and they knew exactly what I was talking about.
They both inspired me to continue to write more, and to get back to writing poetry and short stories. I started out writing poetry then I moved to short stories. I’m not really sure why I stopped writing poems or reading them. Though I can’t say I ever saw myself as a poet – more like an angsty teenager. I remember in high school, there was a poetry contest and we were to read ours in class. I thought, “yes! this is my realm! this is what I excel at and maybe people will be impressed.” They were not impressed. Turns out, EVERYONE was a poet. They all had notebooks full of poems and of course it turned into a popularity contest. Not to diss the winners or anything. I went home feeling frustrated (as most writers do) about feeling not good enough.
I have never won a contest with my poems or short stories or anything for that matter. This program is pushing each of us to continue submitting our work to places and keep pushing through. I’ve made a list of places to submit an essay I wrote for class. However, I got my first rejection for a contest last night.
It’s tough. And writing is very subjective. But if you know in your heart that this is what you want to do, and that this is your passion, keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t be afraid to fail. Just keep trying.
And remember. Writing is hard!
Whatever you do, don’t give up. Writing only gets better with time and practice. I promise.