I’ve been away from the desk for a few weeks, first taking a well-deserved break after a long rewarding year with The Writer’s Studio, and then battling a nasty virus in the first couple weeks of 2020 – but now I’m ready to get back to work. I checked my social media and my email to get it out of the way before opening a page – the first message I saw in my e-mail was “Happy New Year and congratulations on successfully completing The Writer’s Studio.”
After what seemed like a bit of a rocky start to 2020, this was the news I needed to refresh my inspiration. 2019 was a challenging but magical year learning from my peers, connecting with a writing community and getting a jumpstart on my novel with support from my brilliant mentor – and at the end of the year, all our hard work is featured in a beautiful publication called Emerge 19.
Emerge 19 features the work of all the writers in The Writer’s Studio. It’s an exquisite culmination of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, young adult and speculative fiction, short stories and excerpts from novels in progress. It’s all our voices coming together after a year of listening, talking, struggling, writing, false starts, arguing, crying, laughing and, finally, fulfillment. At the end of it all, we get to hold a book in our hands with our name and our words in print.
For some this is the first publication, for others it’s another one of many, but regardless of where we are in our writing journey, there is nothing like attending a formal book launch with your work and giving your first public reading. This is what we worked for after all – and there was still some work left to do before the big night.
A public reading is not easy – you must practice your piece and deliver the best portion of your work within a limited time frame. You need to stand up in front of a public who doesn’t know you, charm them with your personality and engage them in story. You need to acknowledge your fellow writers, listen to them, support them and learn from them. You need to become an expert at handling a microphone and learn to block out commotions that will distract you from your task. (On my first practice read, a loud banging sound came from the other side of the wall – I continued reading, adjusting my voice to override the unexpected noise).
It’s not as overwhelming as it sounds. The excitement of your accomplishment will carry you through a thrilling celebration of your writing journey. It’s exhilarating to stand up and share your work with the world, to meet your readers face to face, and receive praise from the people outside your writing community. The first book launch prepares you for the day you attend your second book launch – this time with the book you wrote.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.