The one thing I keep hearing from professors in the department is how important it is that we all show up to the readings–all of them. They are broken records about it, but I understand why. Readings are a part of the “grad school experience”, especially for creative writing students. Of course there are other reasons attendance is important other than the ones pertaining to your writing. As always, there is a little fiscal motivation in there as well.
Here are 5 reasons why you should be going to readings.
1. Supporting your peers. Often times grad students will organize readings for the department. It gives you a chance to see what others in your group are working on and what they are most proud of. Your friends, colleagues and peers will be getting up in front of a crowd an reading, and being there to support them is important. You’d want them to be there for you, right?
2. Get used to reading out loud. Of course you will be participating in one of these readings, right? Some programs require that you do, others just encourage it. But it’s important to get practice and be comfortable talking and reading in front of people. If and when you get published, part of your job is marketing the book which means traveling and giving readings. Better to learn now in front of friends than in front of strangers somewhere else!
3. Real-life examples of success. When the department brings in published authors, they do it specifically to expose you to people that have done exactly what you’re doing now, and are successful because (or in spite) of it. Sometimes knowing that you can succeed because others have–hearing their stories–can be a great motivator and important inspiration.
4. Networking. The best part of readings is when the department goes out to the bar afterward. Usually we all go to this tiny hole in the wall of a bar where there are never enough chairs and the beer taps haven’t been cleaned in years. But we get together, share stories, drink drinks, and get to know people. The grad students are encouraged to come, the professors always show up and it is a casual time to get to know this published author that has come to visit. Plus, getting to know the author couldn’t hurt if you need a contact later on.
5. Supporting your department. This is the main reason the professors are always going on about readings. Because of budget cuts (and the ever-present threat of more), it is important to show how important the reader budget is to the department. The first thing they are going to look at is the attendance numbers. If they are low, then the school will ask if readings are even necessary and then the readings disappear. You do not want this to happen. The only way to stop it? Actually go to the readings!