Writer Killed by Mime

I attended a meeting of the local chapter of Sisters in Crime this afternoon and had a great time. It's an organization that is well run and helpful and full of people who are well meaning and kind. It was so well done, it's almost no fun talking about. Great conversation, great reading, great panel discussion.

I found out that Jeri Westerson is going to mention my long dead forebear, Thomas de Brantingham, bishop of Exeter in the 1300s in her upcoming novel. We weren't always the kindest people, so I'm not expecting praise, but it should be exciting.

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The meeting got me thinking about my last post, where I talked about some of the readings I've run that haven't gone so well. And then my thoughts broadened to a couple of meetings and readings that I've been to that have gone extremely badly. So in the spirit of continuing on my last post, here are some of the stories of the strangest readings/meeting I've ever been to. But these I wasn't in charge of.

They're not my fault!

By the way, I LOVED the replies to the last post, so please give your favorite bad reading/meeting stories too.

1.  I went to a bar in a seedy part of Long Beach a couple of years ago for a reading to watch G. Murray Thomas and Jeff Eply. As I came in, I was told specifically that the back door would not open. I don't remember why this was pointed out to me, only that it was. About halfway through the reading, a troup of badly painted up mimes came in, stood in front of the stage and stared at the poet on stage. They were stoop shouldered and breathing through their mouths.

I guess they'd been there earlier, but before I showed up. The only thing I could think of was that they were there to murder us all. Why else wander Long Beach in a pack of mimes? Herd of Mimes? Flock of mimes?

They stared gap mouthed at the open-micker who had never read before until she was intimidated off the stage. And the back door was locked. They stood between me and the front door.

I have nightmares of that day. In fact, I wasn't murdered, but I'm not sure that they still aren't watching me. Silent buggers can sneak up on you.

2.  In a reading in Swansea, Wales, I'd been invited to read with an international group. There were a few other Americans including the man who was running the reading. He kept everyone to a strict schedule of oddly specific times. That night we were all to read for exactly 7 minutes. A couple of people went over time enraging him to the point where he yelled that no one could go home until everyone had read, and then he walked out.

None of us had been planning to leave early, so we sat and listened. At the end of the reading, it turned out that he had locked us all in the theater to teach us a lesson. I talked to him later, and he said (in all seriousness) that if he had been a few years younger he would have murdered the people who had gone over. Later, I was standing in his way, and he half-jokingly threatened to murder me.

3. Okay, I never saw it, but a friend of mine went to a reading that she said was small. Since it was so small, the poet said, he wanted to connect with each audience member, so he spent 30 seconds staring into each person's eyes. She liked it. I can't imagine the level of my discomfort.

There have been others. Someone brought a starter's pistol and brandished it like a real gun. A friend of mine showed up naked. Others have crossed other lines.

The thing about it though is that I had fun at all of these. Maybe the mime moments weren't great, but the reading turned out all right. The good ones aren't worth talking about. I learned something new. I connected with someone. I got something that I hadn't had before.

That's the best part about a good reading.

And bad readings -- the worse they are, the more entertaining they become.