The hippie and I attended a reading yesterday evening at Talking Leaves. I'm always nervous about going to readings because there is always the potential for them to become awkward. Either there are very few people there so the author is reading and talking directly to you, or the author shows up and there's very few people there and he or she takes it out on everyone there (or the host bookstore). Either way, when there's a reading at a bookstore from a not-very-famous author, I'm always on edge.
The first time I attended a reading at a bookstore was back in 1996. My friend wanted me to see this new up and coming author named David Sedaris at a Barnes & Noble in Rochester. WE WERE THE ONLY ONES THERE. He didn't read anything, instead the three of us took turns taking pictures with my Poloroid camera until I ran out of film. Years later, when I attended a sold-out reading at the University of Buffalo featuring Sedaris, I showed him the picture my friend took of the author and me. He still remembered that Rochester reading. He told me that is one of the reasons he doesn't ever visit Rochester.
Yesterday's reading was attended by maybe eight or nine people. Most of them knew Heather Holland Wheaton (the author) from when she lived here in Buffalo. I sat in the back just in case it got weird. It never did. She read a few stories and seemed generally pleased to see everyone who showed up. The stories she read were works of fiction that all took place in or around New York City. In one story she replaced the name of a small town with "Buffalo" for effect. The stories were funny and serious and the characters were real and believable and the whole scene just made me wish it was me up there reading. She invited everyone to go to "The Flamingo" for drinks after the reading. Most Buffalonians know that bar as The Old Pink now. I wanted so much to go to the bar with her and pick her brain and talk about writing and show her my stories and get some feedback.
But that didn't happen. I had to work the next morning. I didn't have any copies of any of my writing. I was hungry. I was tired. I was full of excuses. She was here on vacation and she could stay out all night drinking at The Pink. I was a grown up with a job. But I am still kicking myself. I wish I had more writer friends I could talk to about writing. I wish I had more time to concentrate on my writing. I wish I had more. Period.