projects and writings of Tracy Burkholder
The Associated Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference took place in Seattle this past week. I went to the conference years ago in Chicago and decided the chaotic shmooze-fest was something I only had to do once. People attend for different reasons, but I imagine many attend to connect with other writers and pursue relationships with people that might help their careers.
You’re looking at my writing career. This blog is pretty much it. On rare occasion, I still submit pieces to journals for publication but my efforts are lackluster at best. I’m not highly invested in getting published anymore. And yet, like all writers, I still want to be heard.
I’ve always enjoyed reading my work in public, though I’ve only done it a handful of times. Each time my body feels poisoned with adrenalin. Prior to the reading I can barely communicate and afterwards, I can’t run away from the audience fast enough. But for the handful of minutes at the microphone, I’m happy. Happy to have ears turned on the words I’ve labored over. Happy to have eyes turned on the body that made those words, more than just a byline on a page.
So when a group of women that I took a sex writing workshop with decided to organize an off-site reading at AWP this year, I was happy to participate. The reading ended up being at Babeland, a lovely sex toy store in Seattle. And I ended up reading one of the most private and revealing pieces of non-fiction I’ve ever written. I’d never read non-fiction before and I certainly had never read in a sex toy store. But that’s how it went down. We each stood in front of a wall of corsets and harnesses, between a display of fleshlights and a display of vibrators and took our turns being heard.
As predicted, I spilled my secrets then ran away, eager to remove myself from the dildo-laden scene of my crime. But the words were out there. There was no taking them back. And as the adrenalin in my veins subsided, I was happy to have let them go.