It had to happen. At some point in my life I was going to have to get up on a stage in front of strangers and read out a piece of my beloved fan fiction and open it to praise and ridicule.
Tonight (4th February 2013) was that point.
In front of 25 other people, most of whom were strangers to me, though some were familiar faces of customers and the others were friends and work mates. At Woodley Library on their “Writing Out Loud” evening I read the first page and a quarter of my 10th planned story.
This story is part of the series I have in mind following the life, romance and adventures of Julian Kirrin and Sally Hope. As you might have seen on the blog before now there are little snippets into what I consider Enid Blyton Head Cannon for these two characters.
This story starts with a dark, thrilling prologue that has nothing to do with my favourite fictional couple. This adventure takes place in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire ( which I’m sure many of you know was Enid Blyton’s home for a good number of years (1929-1938). The next scene takes place in Sally and Julian’s house, on the day they’re going on holiday to Bourne End to spend time with Julian’s sister Anne and her husband.
I shan’t tell you any more than that because this wasn’t supposed to be a spoiler post, and in the future it would be nice for people to read these for themselves.
Anyway I started off asking the members of the audience who remembered the Famous Five and Malory Towers and there were some delighted noises from the audience. They all seemed to revel in the idea of this little world I had created. It was nice to know that there were some people out in the audience who knew what I was talking about, even if they didn’t know what fan fiction was. I was glad to know that there were definitely some Blyton fans in the ranks.
I was incredibly nervous, I must admit. So much so that I felt like I was shaking and kept stumbling over my sentences – now I realise what people mean when they say my sentences are too long!
I read as clearly as I could, like I had when I had been in university and had to give a presentation but I realised that I just wasn’t able hold my nerve. There is something incredibly personal about reading a piece of your own prose out to near strangers, especially if you’re like me and scared of receiving the slightest criticism (I tend to take criticism to heart and forget the good things that people say to me). I also discovered that reading out a piece of work for university is completely different to laying a piece of writing, which is so personal, down in front of people where you are not going to know whether they’re interested in your work or not.
Instead of reading the two and a half pages I had set my mind on before I got up on stage, I failed miserably and only managed a page and a quarter of my piece. Mainly because I felt so nervous that I was stumbling over words, leaving pauses in the wrong place and didn’t have enough commas. Even with all the reassurance during my introduction, I was not convinced that I was carrying my audience with me. So when I came to a natural stopping point for me, my mouth just refused to work and I finished my section with the words
“Breakfast in fifteen minutes.”
In embarrassment I fled to my seat as the audience clapped while this evening’s MC – one Mr A F Harrold – asked the audience not to knock my fan fiction because it is an accepted form of series extension He seemed rather impressed with my own Famous Five Slash Malory Towers and made a point of telling every one to watch out because one day I might be on a best seller’s list in the New York Times.
Lets just say I was blushing!
Skipping ahead a little to the end of the evening, my crippling self-esteem was in full swing and I was convinced that I had mucked up good and proper, but my friends told me that I didn’t seem nervous in the slightest, which I had trouble believing. But then random members of the audience were coming up and telling me that they had really enjoyed my piece. I must admit that I did tell them that I had been unsure that I had carried my audience through, but I was assured that I had done that indeed.
I also got to talk to some women about the Famous Five. They asked me why I had written about the Famous Five (which is another blog entirely), and I told them about the series I had in mind, my thoughts on getting published and how I didn’t think that George ended up (as many like to think) as a lesbian. We talked about how people project things on to the books causing such fixed ideas. They all seemed enthralled with the idea that Julian was married as well, and I explained why I had chosen Sally for Julian’s wife (again maybe I’ll explain in another blog).
Another thing we talked about was how long it took the Five to get into an adventure, and how my work got going pretty quickly.
I was expecting at least one negative comment from someone, but all of those who came up to talk to me about my work enjoyed what I had written. A F Harrold was even impressed when I told him that I had already completed one novel of the series.
So with people leaving, all that was left was to pack up as best we could, lock up and go home.
This evening has opened my eyes somewhat, making me wonder if there isn’t still a market for the Famous Five, and Blyton. It was also an eye opener in the fact that I had not relieved a single criticism for my work, and that everyone who spoke to me had enjoyed my work and had hoped that I would read more.
If I’m lucky I’ll take all that on board and have a bit more confidence in my work in future, but its hard battling the demons I do, to accept praise for what it is. But hey, maybe one day you’ll go into a bookshop and find my Enid Blyton Fan Fiction staring you in the face.
Until then however, you might be just as well to keep reading this blog. 😉
Well done Stef – you’re so brave! Far, far braver that I could ever be. I think you have discovered the trick that Enid had to make her stories so readable and that is to read them aloud – although Enid had it easier because she was reading to children rather than critical adults. I know the biggest ctitic of your work is yourself and that is why you seize on the negative and gloss over the many positive comments. Please accept that your many fans love your work and look forward to your new stories – particularly about Julian and Sally.
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