Sunday, June 23, 2024

Taking the Stage by Annette Dashofy

As writers, we spend most of our time in solitude, our characters’ words bouncing inside our heads and (if we’re lucky) pouring from our fingers onto the page. Occasionally, we may gather for writing group meetings in person or on Zoom. And we have social media and blogs to get an idea of what each other is writing. Rarely do we stand in front of an audience to read our stories out loud (unless we’re lucky enough to have a book released and are invited to speak at a bookstore or library). 

Even more rare are the opportunities to join with a group of fellow authors and not only read to them but also get to listen to them read to us. 

Last weekend, my Pittsburgh Chapter of Sisters in Crime held what has become an annual event. It started as a reading salon several years ago. Then the pandemic hit and…well…you know. 

A year ago, we decided to revive the salon. Other cities held similar events and called them Noir at the Bar held, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, at a bar. Let’s try that, I thought. Susan Thibadeau, an award-winning short story author and a good friend, took up the challenge. The problem came when we couldn’t find a local bar that was suitable. They either weren’t interested (fools) or charged too much (have they not heard the term “struggling artist?”) or the setting was too noisy. We ended up in the meeting room of a large library and called it Noir NOT at the Bar. It was fun, but not quite what we envisioned. 

This year, we tried again. Martha Reed had returned to the Burgh and graciously agreed to work with Susan on the project as well as be our emcee. They chose the Word Cellar at City of Asylum’s Alphabet City as our venue. Although a previous salon had been held there, I wasn’t able to attend that one, so it was a new and wonderful location to me. With a small dining area on the main floor (we were in the basement, hence Word Cellar) that served adult beverages, we dubbed our program Noir Under the Bar. 

Award-winning Pittsburgh author
Kathleen George shares from new book

We had fourteen authors ranging from multi-published to pre-published give eight-to-ten-minute readings from their works. There was poetry, short stories, samples from works-in-progress, and scenes from already published novels. There were spy thrillers, suspense, police procedurals, detectives, historicals, young adult, and cozies. And a few that defy pigeon-holes. 

As one of those who took the stage, I can attest just how scary it can be to put yourself and your story on display like that. Ordinarily, we put our words out into the world for readers to sit quietly and absorb. But here, we had to speak! We had to choke back our nerves and give voice to our characters and stories.

Emcee Martha Reed gives a fun
reading from Up Jumped the Devil

As a member of the audience as well, I have to tell you, there is some serious talent in Pittsburgh.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s reading salon (no matter what we call it). And I have to recommend that you attend a Noir at the Bar if one comes to your town. 

Have you ever participated in or attended a group reading? If you have, share a little about your experience.