Trying not to outwardly tremble, I briefly looked up from my manuscript to adjust the microphone and smile at the small group gathered to hear me read from my recently published essay, “Wonder Mold Mother.” In the audience were several of my English professors and classmates from my writing classes. Seeking further reassurance, I glanced at my husband who was sitting in the front row, took a deep breath, and hoped my first official reading at a Writers Studio event would go over well.
A little over a year ago, I never would have imagined myself standing here at Arapahoe Community College reading a personal essay about my domestic life. I was a busy suburban mother of five submerged in the daily minutiae of laundry, grocery shopping and my kids’ homework assignments. Outside of friendly exchanges with other stay-at-home moms who could empathize with and validate my situation, I didn’t feel my mundane lifestyle was particularly remarkable.
But now, here I was, an invited guest alongside other published faculty members and students, reading about—of all things—a ruined birthday cake. Without the support of my English professors and Writers Studio, I doubt I would have ever garnered the courage to write a personal essay, let alone submit it for publication and share it in a public setting.
I first learned about Writers Studio and its offerings when an English professor invited my class to attend an open mic in the student lounge one afternoon. It was my first semester back at school after an eighteen-year break and I was unsure of myself in the sea of mostly younger students around me. As a newly-emerging writer, I was also looking for a way to connect with other writers and hoped that Writers Studio might give me the opportunity to contribute and belong.
As I made my way to the student lounge that day, I noticed several people of all ages pulling up chairs and gathering around a wooden lectern with a microphone. I found a seat at the back of the room as one of the English professors welcomed us to the reading.
A long-haired young man in his 20s read some of his esoteric poetry. Next, an adjunct faculty member in the English department bounced her six-month-old baby to sleep in a sling as she read from her selections of slam poetry. Then, a middle-aged man read a chapter from his in-progress fantasy novel.
More writers of various ages and backgrounds took their turns reading from their particular genres but I still doubted my worth in such a diverse setting. How could I—a lowly homemaker—contribute anything that would warrant attention in the academic world? I left the reading that day feeling overwhelmed and uncertain that I would ever find a way to fit in.
Nevertheless, I kept attending readings of guest authors and plugging away at the assignments in my writing classes. I entered the Writers Studio Literary Contest, enrolled in workshops, and attended the Writers Studio Literary Festival. At the time, I hardly realized how the constant exposure to great writing, coupled with consistent writing practice and encouragement from my professors, was gradually building up my self-confidence, honing my editing skills, and improving my writing abilities.
Thanks to the encouragement of five English professors and Writers Studio, in one short year I’ve gone from a hesitant stay-at-home mom who didn’t feel she had anything important to say to a published writer. The applause and smiling faces on the day of my reading affirmed that my everyday experiences were indeed significant and had the power to resonate with others. The risk of putting myself out there was worth it and helped me realize that academic confidence is not as unattainable as it once seemed.