The first time I did a paid reading was at a University in Albany. The reading was to last for 30-40 minutes. But instead of being excited about being paid for my poetry in a university setting I was terrified of having a panic attack. I get panic attacks when I’m in situations where I feel like it would be ‘weird’ if I just left or took a break. And this was a long reading. And I felt like because they were paying me, I couldn’t just walk away from the podium or excuse myself to the ladies room if need be. And in worrying about the panic attack I absolutely gave myself a panic attack. With the second or third poem came shortness of breath, heart palpitations and dizziness. By the ninth poem I was like in full unreality. I managed to power through to the end and no one knew. Afterwards, I felt like I was tripping. I then had to brave a long dinner with my host, another poet and their friends and families, which was terrible, because I was still anxious and having trouble swallowing. But I remember catching a glimpse of myself in a window of the auditorium where the reading was being held. The snow was coming down outside and it was dark out. I saw my reflection for a second and kind of gave myself a nod and thought ‘You said you wanted to be a poet when you were a little girl, and look! You’re a poet!’
I am so a girl at night on the internet. And all the time. But especially at night. I have a few twitter accounts but I don’t like to tweet from my primary account until after 7 PM PT. If I start before that, I will be on it all day. It’s like people who try not to have their first drink before 5 PM. So yeah, I don’t start tweeting on there till 10 PM ET when all of the East Coast nerds are in bed, hehe. I have a lot of other ‘rules’ when it comes to twitter that I often break.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in my living room which had been temporarily converted into a hair salon/makeup studio in advance of a photo shoot for a UK women’s magazine, chatting with the photographer and makeup artist while they got ready for the shoot, trying to pretend to myself and to them that this was, you know, just an average day in my life. The shoot was going to take place at a restaurant nearby, and I’d been asked to rally a group of my friends to be in the background of the shots (because “friendship”). I felt gauche asking if they’d pay for us to have food and drinks at the restaurant so I was prepared to pay for the meal.
The photographer and makeup artist came over to my apartment two hours in advance of the shoot start time so they could look through my closet and pick an outfit for me to wear and of course apply an inch or so of spackle that rendered me somewhat unrecognizable (but very glamorous!). They put makeup on the bruises and cat scratches on my legs and arms. This, they explained, was to save the photographer time when he was photoshopping me.
I liked them both a lot. In my experience photographers and makeup artists are some of the most relaxed, happy people around. They get to meet a lot of interesting (though I’m sure sometimes monstrous) people, and they often seem to genuinely enjoy their jobs. They don’t work in an office or spend time online except for fun. I have often wished I had any talent at photography or doing hair/makeup, but I very, very, very much do not.
As fun as getting glammed up and then sitting in a restaurant ignoring the fact that the restaurant patrons are trying not to stare at you as a photographer tells you repeatedly to relax your mouth and look up, then down, is, it’s not exactly the way I would have chosen to spend my Saturday. But they did pay for our meal and when the shoot was over everyone came back to my apartment and drank more wine and I made these baked turkey meatballs which were really not bad at all.
As I was getting my hair blown out I asked the photographer whether he’d shot anyone interesting recently and he said Martin Amis. He told me that Martin Amis let him into his house, told him “You have two minutes,” didn’t pose or smile, and then two minutes later promptly ushered him out.