On Sunday, several Ekphrasians and friends gathered at Lehigh Valley Presbyterian Church to read part of my novel-in-progress, The Four Senses, out loud. We shared good food and fellowship, and we read the first ten chapters — 30,000 words — out loud together.
What a wild experience that was!! First, the fellowship was wonderful. Most of the members of the core group were there, plus some occasional attendees and four newcomers! In attendance were: me, Marian B, Richard B, Betsy G, Sharon G, Carl H, Gary H, Jeff H, Nadine K, Andrew MacD, Jenn R, Terri R, Dan S, Elaine S, and Elizabeth S. Everyone brought wonderful food: guacamole, tacos, chips, salsa, curry, chicken bites, rice dishes, home-baked bread, cookies, and so forth. It was a feast for the body, heart, and mind.
Second, the sensation of hearing my writing read out loud was wonderful. I was afraid it would all sound stupid once it hit the air, but it didn’t. Yet the act of listening to my own prose was revelatory: I could tell which passages dragged or limped along, and which were more smooth. I knew what to cut, shorten, or otherwise alter just from hearing it read. And my friends did a beautiful job reading, especially Nadine K (who read the main character/narrator) and Carl H (who read musical and philosophical passages in a beautifully rich tone). Everybody brought their characters to life for me.
Finally, however, it was exhausting to try to take in all the comments, questions, critiques, and suggestions for revision. As the evening went on, the comments became more and more similar: “Develop this character more. Replace narrative with action.” And then at last a few members were competing with one another to see who could criticize the most, and I had to stop it before I fell asleep with exhaustion or started to cry. The suggestions were all wonderful, and I will take them all into account as I revise, but it was a lot all in one go! I don’t know how Sharon G. managed to put up with it for 13 hours and her entire 70,000 word novel earlier this year. Whew.
So thanks, everyone! Let’s do it again sometime. And bring pillows and blankets.