Friday, September 28, 2012

Micro Interview: Jensen Beach

Today is WORDHARVEST eve, so we'll have micro interviews with the two remaining readers to celebrate.  First, we have Jensen Beach, author of For Out of the Heart Proceed as well as a contributor to our vol. 8, no. 1 issue. Here are his responses to my questions about prepping for a reading. Enjoy!

Ninth Letter: How do you prepare for a reading? Any pre-show rituals?

Jensen Beach: Well, I get kind of nervous when I read, so if the reading's at a bar, I'll usually have a drink to loosen up. But I find I can't drink too much or I'll get tongue-tied. Otherwise, I don't really have too many rituals. I try not to think too much about the reading in the days leading up to it. If I do, I find myself planning out how I'll introduce each story and that never really works out like I plan it; so I find it works best for me to just wing it.

9L: When deciding which material to read, do you try to anticipate or take into account how the audience might react to what you read based on the event or venue?

JB: Usually, I'll think of a few options for what I might want to read and make a decision at the reading. I try to read things that feel right for who's there and for the tone or nature of the reading. I usually won't read things with too much sex in them, for example, if my mother or my boss are in the audience. But that rarely happens, so usually I'm comfortable reading whatever. I kind of let my mood decide the first thing I read and then go from there. I'm making it sound way more complicated than it should be.

9L: What's one of your favorite moments from a reading, either yours or one you've attended?

JB: Back in 1999 or 2000 or so I saw Sherman Alexie read at Moe's in Berkley. I don't remember what he was there to read, if he had a  book out or anything, but the reading was great. Sherman Alexie is famous
for being a funny reader a great oral storyteller, and this reading was great. The best part of the reading, though, wasn't him. It was a fistfight that broke out near the back of the audience. These two women got into it over a seat. I was sitting right next to them. First there was some muffled shouting, then it escalated into pushing. Finally, the two started throwing punches. It was pretty surreal. One of the women got her earring ripped out. There was blood kind of splattered down her shoulder. They kept shouting at each other. Sherman Alexie, of course, stopped reading and the audience all turned and looked at the fight. It happened pretty quickly. Someone broke up the fight and one of the woman shouts to Sherman Alexie, "Hey, Sherman, just like the rez, huh?" And Sherman Alexie just said, "No, nothing like that." Then he went back to the reading. It was perfect.

WORDHARVEST starts at 4pm tomorrow at Cowboy Monkey in Champaign, IL. More details about the event can be found here. Check back later today for our next micro interview with Roxane Gay.

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