It’s a bright and sunny Monday morning here, and all is good with the world. I was up with the sun, ready to go outside and water our garden plants before the day grew too hot, and it was beautiful. The grass was thick with dew, and the air was already warm. I watched the water sparkle on the leaves of our plants (the rose we were given on our wedding day, and the lilies my father grew and gave to us when we moved into the house), and I gave silent thanks for all the love in my life.
Then I stood and soaked up a bit of the early sunshine for a few minutes before the dew started soaking through my unlaced trainers, forcing me to go back indoors. Finally, I sat at my computer, full of the joys of life, ready to write my blog, only to find that WordPress wouldn’t work. So, all the gentle, sun-dappled peace that had settled on my soul got flung out the window as I sat, fuming, at my desk.
After a cup of tea, and a time-out, though, all’s good again. WordPress appears to be working once more, and I’m Zen. Actually, it was a good opportunity to practice my mindfulness. Or whatever it’s called when you sit, impatiently, waiting for something over which you have no control to start happening the way you want it to.
Sounds a lot like life, right?
How was everyone’s weekend? I hope you all did at least one amazing thing and managed to cram in as much relaxation as possible, too. As for me – well, I got to do something really cool on Saturday. Two of my stories, ‘Killer Ink’ and ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ – neither of which have been published in print – were recorded in a podcast, which is fantastic. I owe this honour to ‘Number Eleven Magazine’, the editor of which organised the recording session in the beautifully-appointed Civic Theatre in Tallaght, in Co. Dublin. I can say now that it was a wonderful experience, because it’s all over and I survived it; at the time I was so nervous my knees were literally knocking. I did think that was a literary device, you know, until Saturday morning. It’s really not.
So, what’s it like to record a story for a podcast?
Firstly, we arrived in the foyer of the Civic Theatre to be greeted by an array of muffins and scones and chocolate-covered rice cakes and (thankfully) bottles of water. The first thing I learned was this: if you’re going to record a story, bring water with you. That’s probably something I should’ve remembered all by myself, but the nerves wiped my brain. Graham (Number Eleven’s editor) did his best to put me and the other recordees present at our ease, but we were all a bit skittish and scared. One of these other writers is a proper published novelist, and everything, so I immediately felt a bit better – if someone of her calibre felt daunted by the whole thing, then I immediately gave myself permission to be nervous, too.
What’s to be nervous about? All you’re doing is facing a microphone and reading a story without making too many mistakes. Nothing to be nervous about, right? Well. Yes – technically, all that happened was I was ushered into an empty theatre, faced with a large red microphone, encouraged gently by the two lovely people from the podcast website, and then I just read my stories in my best slow, intelligent, grown-up voice. But it was more than that, mentally. It was sharing a story with strangers, and you’re physically there to watch the boredom film over their eyes or the distaste creep over their faces, and you’ve got to stand there and take their criticism and disdain on the chin, and you’ve nothing but some flimsy sheets of paper to shield your head with as they run towards you, flailing fists at the ready…
Of course, I’m not being serious. The lovely podcast crew were so nice, and supportive, and encouraging, and enthusiastic – they’re genuinely interested in new Irish writing, and want to do their best to support literary magazines like Number Eleven, and that’s an amazing thing. But, in my head, I felt like I was squirming on a giant petri dish beneath the lens of a mighty microscope, being examined and prodded and poked and, eventually, discarded. I felt, truly, that my stories weren’t good, that they weren’t strong or compelling, and that everyone else would be miles better than me. I almost felt like apologising for wasting the podcast crew’s time.
One of the stories I recorded was less than seven days old. I wrote it last Monday, and spent the week tweaking and twisting and trying to perfect it. I made changes to it right up until Saturday morning – the typescript was covered with handwritten edits as I faced the microphone, so I’m amazed I could even read it – and, perhaps, it’s no wonder I was scared it wasn’t any good. It’s tough to give life to something so new, something untested and something which you’ve not listened to out loud until the day you’re recording it for a podcast (also, not something I’d recommend! Lesson two: make sure you’ve read the stories you’re recording through at least once, to check for tricky pronunciations or clunky sentences, and to ensure you’ve got space to breathe in every line. Word to the wise.) Also, both my stories were SF-lite, speculative fiction with a dystopian twist, perhaps, which is a genre I’m only easing myself into. I had a feeling most of the other stories would be beautifully observed, gentle meditations on life and love and eternity – and then I’d come in like a clanging bell, blaring on about overpopulation and euthanasia and genocide and psychotic, vampiric tattoos (for, dear reader, those are the topics covered in my tales). So, really, it’s no wonder I was a bit uneasy.
But it all went well. I read clearly, getting it all in one take, besides a few flubs which I’m assured can be edited out, and Sinéad (the lovely podcast lady) told me she enjoyed listening to me read. I’m sure she says that to all the recordees, but still. It was nice of her to say so. Funnily enough, too, it was ‘Ne Plus Ultra’, the story that was barely a week old, which I felt was the better of the two. But when the podcast is live, you guys can be the judge of that. I’ll let you all know when the stories are ready to be listened to (well, maybe. If I’m brave enough!)
Happy Monday, everyone. I have big plans for this week, writing-wise, and I hope the week that’s facing all of you brings you happy, shiny things.