Page to Stage: Reading A Memoir Out Loud
Before I submitted it to my literary agent, I re-drafted and edited the pages of my book-length memoir at least 20 times.
Last March, I toted my printed manuscript--plus a bunch of sticky notes--to a Florida beach where I lounged under the tropical rays while giving the book its final copy edit and spit polish.
UMassLowell is one of the campuses within our state university system, and Lowell is a former mill city that's often credited as the cradle of the American industrial revolution.
What a treat to read and discuss Irish American literature in a city that's a hotbed of multicultural immigrant stories--old and new, told and untold, sad and happy.
Thematic fit aside, I decided to read an excerpt from the memoir because I believed that there would be few or no surprises, that I could predict the audience reaction.
Well ... Duh. That writer control-freak thing only goes so far. Collectively or individually, a listening audience will decide for themselves the parts of our writing that they deem funny, sad or controversial.
As I stood there at the lectern at Lowell, my own story sounded different to me.
Dang it. Despite all my love and attention, that cheeky little manuscript had gone and taken on a life and a voice of its own.
Reminder to self: Long before they got shelved in mega bookstores or downloaded to Kindles, our stories were and are an oral art.
From one teller to the next, from page to stage, a story always mutates.
That's how stories breathe. And live.