DimeStories Dilettante by Kim Schultz
Hello, August in San Diego. Hello, heat waves and dry spells. Hey there, footsore tourists at the Zoo with your Disneyland hats and stuffed Shamu toys: no matter what the guide books say, if you take your kids to Disneyland before the world-famous San Diego Zoo, your kids will only see the Zoo as one big dusty hot hill instead of enjoying the most amazing collection of animals west of the Mississippi and possibly in the Western Hemisphere.
Hello, children out of school, specifically, my children who are making it difficult for me to write. I find it hard to take time to shower, let alone write. But I did write something (besides this blog) and even though I thought it was a cop-out of writing, I trundled myself off to DimeStories this August to read. I used to be a DimeStories regular for too brief a time, and then I had a baby three days after reading a piece on my family’s holiday tradition of setting fire to the trash, and then my free time dried up.
And—if I can be quite frank here—it’s a pain in the butt for me to get out to a writing event. First of all, there’s the shower issue I’ve already highlighted. Since my day usually involves dealing with the excrement of two species on a regular basis, plus all the other manual labor that is caring for small children, I usually like to have some freshening up time, which is time to wash my face, make sure my hair’s all pointing in the same direction or can be secured, brush my teeth, and check that my deodorant’s still holding as strong as its advertisers claim. Bonus points if I get out the door in clean clothes instead of things stained with (and I’m surveying, not imaging here) rainbow sherbet, oily kid fingerprints, bleach spots, and strawberry juice.
For an open mic event, there’s the whole issue of what to read. Do I have something new to read? Should I read something I haven’t read in a while and hope nobody will notice? Do I remember whether the response the first time I read it was good or bad and have I improved it any since then? Just the weight of picking something to read is enough to stick me to the couch for the evening.
But I wrote a piece last month and I was going to read it. It was a true piece about my naked father accidentally sitting on my brother (see, there’s not a lot of skill needed to make that funny), hence my feeling like it was a cop-out, but it was mine and I was going to read it, hell or high water. Reading my writing makes me feel like a writer, and I honestly needed some validation of being a writer.
On the first Friday of August, I got to Lestat’s on Park just in time and put my name in and chatted with people about the anthology and the first readers and waited for my name to be called. If you haven’t been to DimeStories (why not?), it’s a three-minute open mic for prose. Prose. You can read part of your novel, your latest political diatribe, your essay about cancer, your flash fiction, even some erotica—questionable and not—has been read at DimeStories. You can read whatever you’d like (for three minutes) as long as it’s prose. If it’s poetry, there are other venues for you.
At DimeStories, if you want to read, you pay up $5, you put a slip of paper with your name and your piece’s title in a little tin bucket, and you wait for your name to be randomly selected. The worst moment of DimeStories is after someone else has just commanded the room, with everyone laughing and clapping, and then hearing your name called as the next reader.
I had that moment. I was following Eber, who is an old hand and always, always brings his A-game. He’s great writer and a great reader, which is a killer combo at DimeStories. So I got up with my naked dad story—which I was now convinced was not funny at all and why was I bringing yet another story about my family smoking to DimeStories again and people will be so bored everyone will get up en masse and get coffee together—and I took a deep breath to stem the crazy thoughts and started to read. I told my story and people laughed. If people went to get coffee, I didn’t notice. Three minutes goes fast. I got done before the timer went off and I sat down, basking in the glow of being a writer for at least another evening.
Will I be there in September? Probably not; I’m running a plumeria sale that day and I will probably be exhausted by seven pm. But maybe I will. Maybe I will remove the dirt from my brow with a baby wipe, check my deodorant, stick another family smoking story in my pocket, and get myself to Lestat’s for some writerly support. For $5, it’s a bargain.
Kim Schultz used to write about cell phone test equipment, particle counters, and nuclear waste disposal facilities for money, but now writes aridly acidic prose for her own amusement when her children are asleep. She’s the secretary and volunteer coordinator for SDWI and is working on her novel, really.