The reading, rather surprisingly, went off without a hitch. I got there when I was supposed to, by some sort of miracle (I am chronically late to everything-- even when I leave the house fifteen minutes earlier than necessary, I will hit traffic or my car will die, or SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN to prevent me from being on time), bearing food and some decorations. Travis, who is apparently some sort of tea wizard, brought various types of tea and something like eight teapots. Dr. Lowery brought two lovely tarnished silver teapots, and Kim, one of the other staff members, got her friend to bring cupcakes and a cake. Her friend? Is trained as a French pastry chef and owns a bakery. AWESOME. The cake was shaped like a Mad Hatter-type hat, with "READ ME" (the title of this issue) written across the band. The cupcakes had little fondant hats that looked like the cake, card suit symbols, or layers of purple and pink icing with a fondant grin stuck on (CHESHIRE CUPCAKES. THEY WERE PRECIOUS). Yet another staff member, Alexx, brought cheese and crackers to round out our feast.
All the contributors who agreed to show up, showed up (and within an acceptable time frame). Facilities and food services delivered everything in plenty of time, and we had enough staff members there early enough that setting up was fairly painless. The table (well, it was two tables put together to form one really long table) looked AMAZING-- white tablecloths, red and white rose petals (fake) strewn about, black and white platters of scones and mini-frittatas and sausage rolls, all sorts of different teapots, a few cups and saucers, and one of the contributors even ran up to his dorm room and brought down a deck of cards, which we put all over the table. The readers were seated in an arc around the table, with several rows of audience seats on the other side. We were able to do an almost complete run-through before guests started really arriving, and even managed some group shots of the staff, and of the staff plus the contributors**. Many of us wore silly hats (I wore Karl! It was awesome), and everyone stuck to the dress code. Generally, there is a vauge sort of dress code for readings, often "wear black" or such. This time it was "wear black, white, red, or some combination thereof", and everyone did so (and, might I add, looked quite sharp). I was very pleased. We even had the original of one of the art pieces in the magazine on display, along with several gorgeous photos from staff members that were used as chapter title images.
Previous readings (at least, the ones I've encountered) have been held in the second floor foyer of the English/Education building. They were always on Dead Day, when there are no classes, but the occasional student is still wandering around sometimes. And they were in the middle of the afternoon. Attendance has always been a major issue because of this-- people are at work, studying for upcoming finals, or just trying to enjoy their time off and don't feel like wandering out of their way into the building. Then during readings, people would have to walk through our space to get to classrooms or offices, and if the elevator was used the noise was beyond distracting (the Malloy elevator is the loudest elevator ever built. Trufax).
This time, we held the reading during the evening, in the downstairs lobby of the dorm, which is gorgeous, spacious, and full of students. While it was a Friday night, and the last Friday of the semester, there were students milling about. I was worried that we'd wind up with more contributors than guests (a very real concern when you realize that we had 17 people up there-- a new record for Laurels, I believe!), but we had about 20 guests when we started, and more kept coming in! I lost track after 25 or so, but I know more people showed up. I would not be surprised if there were 30 (or maybe a few more) folks there to see the reading, in total. The stairs were to the audience's back, and our setup allowed anyone coming in through the doors behind us to sneak around us without interrupting (I don't know that anyone did, use those doors during the reading, though).
We were concerned that the noisy A/C would make it difficult to hear people, but we all worked hard to project and I heard no complaints about difficulty hearing from the audience afterward. If we use this venue again, we'll probably try for some sort of sound system to combat the noise. Or practice reading REALLY REALLY LOUD.
The actual presentation of work went wonderfully. A few people stumbled a little, but nothing memorable. The serious pieces were greeted solemnly, the funny pieces got laughs, and when the funniest piece was followed by a sad story about World War II, the absurdity forced awkward smiles on a few faces (we laughed later). I realized we had a very good balance of work-- some hilarious, some neutral, and some sad. I was the last to read, and then we introduced ourselves and handed out the magazine, answered a few questions, and invited everyone to partake of tasty foods.
Also, Dr. Lowery gave me flowers, and a card signed by the staff! It was very sweet, and the flowers are sopretty. They are in a vase in our kitchen right now.
lllano came! And she and her friend were in dress code, unwittingly. Her red shirt had a wookiee on it, even! I made the Wookiee Noise at her and reminded her of my threat to crash her wedding and throw those godawful Twilight conversation hearts as she and her new husband flee. And yet, she still speaks to me.
paperquilt also showed up, and won the award for Most Hardcore Attendee because she apparently ate some pavement on her bike on the way over and scuttled in with a bleeding elbow and a shaken expression. But scuttle in she did, and lllano and I were extremely impressed by her dedication.
Overall, definitely a success.
Now, to figure out how to top it next year.
*For those of you who have never been in a flood of any sort and are imagining frolicking in the waters like a child at the beach, let me tell you something. This is not water you want to play in. This is not happy water. This is sewer overflow, straight off the bayou, and it smells and looks like it. The news generally advises that if you do wind up swimming in it for whatever reason, you get yourself a tetanus shot as soon as the doctor's office dries out. So, yeah. Not pretty.
**The staff picture may or may not have been The Last Supper-style, after some Eddie Izzard riffs about who got to do the big arms***.