My Odyssey Workshop Experience: The Slam

The Odyssey Slam occurred exactly halfway through the workshop. Normally, so I’ve heard, the Slam would occur at a local bookstore. Instead of a bookstore, we did a Zoom “party” where only the person reading at that time would have their camera turned on.

We got to invite three people. One of my invites was my mom. Unfortunately, my family got double-booked that day with my niece’s second birthday also being held as a zoom event with the overlap being across the first hour of the Slam.

This meant I had to request a late time slot in order for my mom to get to see me read. Boo :(

I’d been really wanting one of the first slots so I could do my freak out, get the read over with and truly enjoy everyone else’s stories. Instead, I sat in a puddle of anxiety that ticked higher after each subsequent person read their story. I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t remember a single word of the story of the person who went directly before me because I was sitting in a haze of don’t-panic thoughts.

This was the story I read during the Slam

The story I chose to read was the flash piece “Cessation of Civilization” that had originally been published in December 2019. This meant that I didn’t have to write a piece for the Slam (thank goodness). I practiced it all morning, with my partner giving me tips on how to “look up sometimes!” So I made it through the read generally unscathed.

During the entire Slam because I was in my office and my partner was in the house, he kept sending me texts about the stories. His personal favorite was Scott’s zombie story–I got a ton of “Ahhh!! He needs to escape! He’s going to be eaten!” types of texts. For a few of the others some highlight texts were: “Oh…oh no, he’s made of FISH!” “This is why we’re never living in an HOA…” and “Ew. Reminds me of the roach blocks from that snowpiercer movie.”

The “audience” would be unmuted for applause at the end of each story, which didn’t quite work for the first few readers, but hopefully they knew that we were clapping and cheering for them even when we couldn’t be heard :)

I had a sense of relief after the Slam finished, which I’m sure most, if not all, of my fellow workshoppers probably felt as well. Afterwards, some of us met privately (virtually) to chat about the Slam and each other’s stories, where people shared tribulations about the process.

It was good practice though. It’s part of being a writer, this whole doing readings of our own fiction. It’s important to figure out strategies on how to do it (Mary Robinette Kowal has a great post with advice I recommend. Tips like speaking slower; enunciate; take time to look up at the audience to engage them; alter your tone so a monotone won’t put people asleep, etc.,) So a big thank you to Jeanne Cavelos and Amy Blackstone for doing the work behind the scenes to make it happen in a virtual setting for us :)

<3 Marie C.

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