Saturday, December 14, 2013

Notes from an Online Reading

42º ~ the casters of fore say that we should return to normal temps (low to mid 50s) for most of next week, sympathies to those north of here where the cold has been much, much worse ~ skies heavy gray, birds heavy feeding (robins, mostly today)

Thursday night, I participated in my first live online reading, in this case sponsored by Hayden's Ferry Review for the launch of issue 53. I've got two sickly speaker poems in the issue: "Left a Refugee Here in a Sterile Country" and "I Have Gone Shimmering into Ungentle Sleep." (I've linked to the draft notes.)

I confess, I was a bit nervous about this reading, as I've only ever recorded for the internet before and this was LIVE! All thanks to Sam Marton at HFR for sending out great instructions and organizing the entire set up on Ustream. Sam provided us with an opportunity to check out the site the day before the event and get familiar with the set up, which was priceless for my nerves. He also sent out a schedule so we would all know when we were scheduled to hit the "Go Live" button on our end.

The day of the event was marked by two momentous occasions: 1) I hit "send" on my final set of final grades for the semester and 2) I received my contributor copies of the HFR issue. Wahoo! So, having submitted grades and now clutching the journal in my hands (and what a production this print journal is, 5-star quality!), I set about organizing my computers and the room in which I'd be broadcasting and practicing what I wanted to say and the poems I meant to read.

This meant moving lamps around, taking all the riff-raff off my bookshelves so that only the books showed in the background of the video, and finding a sweater that looked half-way decent. I logged into the site, where you can see what your camera is picking up without going live, so I could judge light and image. I tried to deal with the glare on the glasses, but, alas, failed at that. Also, I had my system set up so I could broadcast from my desktop, which is plugged into the internet connection through a hardline, and I planned to have my laptop going next to me to see the live broadcast, as there is a delay. The best laid plans and all that.

As the broadcast launched, I was in my seat listening to the readers before me on my laptop, when George the cat decided to check things out. He was distressed by the fact that my desk was askew (I had to turn the computer for better video quality) and did a hesitant tap dance across the desktop keyboard and then wound through cords and such behind the computer. Meanwhile, I listened on. Then, the reader scheduled to go before me, didn't appear and didn't appear and didn't appear (tech difficulties, luckily resolved so he could go later). Sam emailed and said, "Can you go a few minutes early?" Sure, no worries. I'd planned ahead.

I tried to hit the "Go Live" button on my desktop, and...nothing happened...oh god!, click, response. George the cat!!!!! He must have knocked something or pressed a key or something. Scramble, scramble, scramble...get laptop from viewing mode to broadcasting mode...fluster, fluster, fluster...and begin to broadcast!

I started to speak and prayed that I was broadcasting, as I now was in the blind (with Ustream, you can't have a broadcasting window open at the same time as a viewing window on the same computer or you get feedback) and on my laptop instead of my desktop, which meant relying on WiFi. As I read my thanks and then my first prepared poem, I panicked. Did Sam need me to fill time? I'd prepared 10 minutes as suggested, but then, he asked me to go 5 minutes early? Should I go to my allotted end time? Yes, I decided, or close. So as I was reading my first prepared poem, another section of my brain was scrambling. Luckily, I had the whole fever manuscript right there and picked two shortish poems I know well and blended them in. This is why I always, always, always rehearse.

Finally, I came to the end, and we'd been told to wait a bit after finishing before clicking the "stop" button or we would cut off the broadcast (which was on a delay). I did wait what felt like an uncomfortable amount of time, but, sadly, without my dual computer system working, I couldn't see the broadcast, so I cut myself off. Sigh.

It turns out that I probably shouldn't have added the two extra poems, as the reading ended up going long. I hope no one thought I was one of those horrid readers who disregards time allotted! Also, because I was on my laptop, using WiFi, my broadcast broke up a bit when the signal strength dropped. Sigh.

I do think I was the oldest person reading Still, I was thrilled to get a chance to try the technology.

Also, I was happy that friends and family far and wide (including a friend in England who stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to listen...thank you, Danny) could see/hear the reading. It was great to be able to call Mom afterward and celebrate the event. On top of all that, I got to hear some amazing work (in particular, poems by Benjamin Goldberg and Emma Sovich) and I didn't have to leave my house. In fact, I had sweat pants and slippers on! Lovely, lovely.

Again, thanks to Hayden's Ferry Review for the experience and to Sam for the organization and technical support.


Carol Berg said...

This was so much fun to read! Your thought processes while "live" were so spot on--I think we all would have done something similar, or had those kinds of questions going on. Thanks for this!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Carol. It was a great experience.