March has been an exciting month for my writing. Back in January, I decided to start waking up at 5am to write from 5:30-6:30, six days a week. Yes, Saturday too. This is of course after the cats are fed and coffee is made, but before I get ready for work. No, it hasn’t always worked out great. Sometimes, I get up late and I only get a half hour in. Sometimes, I am so groggy or overwhelmed with a head full of life and longing that I simply journal to clear the cobwebs.
But slowly, surely, I am filling a notebook with character sketches, scenes, and narrative that fill in the gaps in my book manuscript. In addition to the fiction writing and journaling, I also write poems and post to my blog every Saturday. This month’s selection includes the posts: ‘High Water’, ‘Paris With You’, and ‘Across Water’.
March has been a month of writing events. I currently participate in a poetry writing group at a local library that meets for six sessions, then concludes with a final reading of our work on April 25. More to come on that. I also attended the Rosemont Writers Festival on March 24, an annual all-day event of writing workshops, speakers, and book fair located in- you guessed it- Rosemont, MN.
But most exciting of all, was the Poets & Pints reading at Sisyphus Brewing on March 21 where I was one of four featured poets. In all the years of writers group events, open mics, and public speaking this was the first time ever that I was a featured poet. Nineteen people showed up specifically to hear me read and I was told, “You killed!”. I am very humbled by their response and grateful for the encouragement. Since that night, I have reflected on why it has taken me so long to become willing to share my work publicly with strangers. I only started seriously blogging a little over a year ago and reading at open mics in the last eight months, one of which led to the Poets & Pints reading (open mic: Poetry Happy Hour @ Troubadour Wine Bar).
As I have written before, my first public reading of my original work was as a member of my mentor Susan’s writers group in 2002. We were at the Uptown public library in Chicago. I was so afraid that she took my hand and walked me up to the lectern, kept her arm around me as she introduced me, and then sat down to let me speak. I could barely read it, stammering and feeling so embarrassed and naked by my raw words, words I still speak today but no longer back away from. That night I finished to thundering applause; I finished to murmurs, “I didn’t know she could write like that”; I finished to Susan hugging me so tight I cried; I finished knowing I was a writer.
But why only in these safe spaces did I remain? Why when someone would ask to read my work did I refuse? I still haven’t come up with a good answer. I know that I have never felt ‘qualified’ to call myself a poet and my fiction often only exists as fractured drafts- unfinished and unsubmittable. I have not been able to land on the reason that one who is as bold as me in so many other areas of life has hesitated.
It’s not that I have not been writing but the 16 years since that first night have not been easy. Trauma can derail you for long periods of time, if not permanently. My writing is too honest. I am too naked in my words. Too much bloodshed on the page, my blood mixed with ink. I have often said, if you think writing is fun you are not doing it right.
But the death of two writing friends– my mentor Susan in 2016 (who I never thanked) and my fellow midtown writer Todd, whose memoir of his cancer treatment and untimely death I edited and was published in 2017- shook me. It’s not as if I am a stranger to death but rather they were terrible reminders of how little time we really have. I had to ask myself, “What exactly are you waiting for, Christine? What event, experience, or understanding is going to make it OK for you to speak your words to the world?”
The time is now. Speak the words.
-Copyright C.M. Mounts, March 2018