Saying Those Words Out Loud!

Apr 11, 2007

In October, I had the pleasure of participating in Rachel Kramer Bussel’s In The Flesh Erotic Reading Series. She invited me to read from Sins and Secrets, which had just been released. I enthusiastically accepted! How amazing to be invited to read at this popular, and prestigious, monthly reading series! How totally cool was that!

Then it hit me. I had been asked to read my work OUT LOUD, in front of a room full of people! I picked up a copy of Sins and Secrets and silently read the first chapter. No problem. Then, I tried reading it aloud. Let me tell you, reading those words, and saying them aloud, are two very different experiences.

The first time through, I know I blushed. My face got hot as Hades. Then, I tried it again, reminding myself that I had written the darn book, for heaven’s sake! I did all right until I hit the explicit sex scenes. As I had before, I stalled. Forcing myself to continue, I read the entire first chapter aloud.

It never occurred to me that I would be inhibited about this. In fact, I accepted the invitation without even thinking about how I would react to the words. To overcome potentially stumbling when I hit a particularly explicit passage, I read the first chapter aloud enough times to desensitize myself to the language.

SASReading1The night of the reading came. We arrived at The Happy Ending Lounge on Broome Street in Manhattan (Cool place, huh!). My husband and a few friends came with me for moral support. I still didn’t know for sure if I would get through it, but hey, what could happen? If I stumbled over a few words, I would just keep on going. It’s the way I’ve lived my life, why should this be any different?

 Many talented authors read that night. Some of the material had an edge that went far beyond what my work has. My friends told me later that some of the readings made them uncomfortable. Fortunately, I didn’t know that at the time. When my turn came, I took my copy of Sins and Secrets and made my way to the podium.

Honestly, my time reading is something of a blur. I remember the light on the podium didn’t illuminate the SASReading2whole page. In order to see the words, I had to keep moving the book. Otherwise, I couldn’t see the paragraph I needed to read. I remember some passages got laughs. Even though I knew they were amusing, I never expected to have to pause for laughter. 

When I read the sex scenes, I just focused on reading them as clearly as I could. Then I reached the first point in the book where the reader had to choose which way she wanted the action to proceed. To save time, I only read one choice. I thought of allowing the audience to choose the scene, but didn’t want to use up more than my allotted time to do that. So, I chose to read the first alternative, where the woman is dominant in the sex scene.

I had no idea how I did. Of course, my husband and friends were complimentary. What were they going to say, “You stank on ice?” On my way to the bathroom at intermission, I found out I really had pulled it off. Mo Beasley from Urban Erotika also read that night. He read a poem he’d written called “Black Panties.” Mo came up to me and complimented me on my reading. He also stopped my husband and told him how much he enjoyed my work, saying it was really hot and very good!

Since that night, Mo has invited me to read with his Urban Erotika group. And, he gave me permission to post his poem “Black Panties” on my website. You can read it there, if you’re interested.

While you’re there, check out the excerpt from the first chapter of Sins and Secrets. If you’re curious about how it felt to read it out loud, pick a hot passage and try it. I’m telling you, it isn’t easy.

Which brings me to an interesting question   . . .  Why are we so hung up on language?

In the news today, I picked up this item:

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. — Three girls who were to be suspended from John Jay High School for saying the word “vagina” at an open mic literature reading reportedly will have their suspensions rescinded.

These girls read from The Vagina Monologues and were suspended because they used the word “vagina” in the reading. The school superintendent lifted the suspension only after the story hit major news services all over the country. Just think what would have happened had they read what I did?

It was great to be exposed to a forum like In the Flesh, where writers could express their sexually uninhibited work artfully, freely, and comfortably.  Even though it proved harder than I thought it would be, I’m so glad I did it.


P.F. Kozak -

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