September 24, 2019 § 22 Comments
By Kristen Paulson-Nguyen
Before reading my essay “The Wave” on July 22, 2019 at Porter Square Books, I bought mints (my fans deserve fresh breath); large Band-Aids for my left leg (don’t ask); and facial blotting papers (shiny prose, good; shiny t-zone, bad). I asked a classmate for help pronouncing Ocean Vuong’s last name (it’s what any decent person would do). I had dinner with two members of my writing group (nothing heavy), and I made sure I was wearing my special shoes (gold ankle boots are an eternal fashion “do”).
Kristen: Why didn’t you get a haircut?
Kristen: I don’t know—I knew this reading was coming up months in advance. My favorite stylist, Chloe, left my salon, Shag, and I was afraid to ask them which salon she defected to because she was in exile.
Kristen: Did you check how many times you used the word “scholar?”
Kristen: I hope so! My high school English teacher, Ms. Stewart, drilled the importance of word variety into my head. Some writers find it helpful to create a word cloud to check which words they’ve used most.
Kristen: Will your husband record you from an unflattering angle, to be displayed for all of digital eternity?
Kristen: Yes. And I will have robot voice. But the writing is more important than how I look—at least that’s what they tell me—and the bonus of being alive to read my work can’t be beat.
Kristen: You seem to have had nothing to wear.
Kristen: I have a closet full of clothes. But I have chosen to wear the same stretchy black pants I wear every day. I’m hoping the accessories I’ve worn, which include the tooth or tusk or shell of some creature, will distract from my pants, and draw the eye gracefully upward.
Kristen: Omg Steve Almond and Ocean Vuong are reading tonight too, over at Harvard Book Store, so nobody may come to your reading.
Kristen: My friend Amy brought up this point (actually, a few people did), and I told them that I’m an emerging writer, so at my reading they will have no idea what to expect. Almond and Vuong have already emerged, so the audience would just get more of Steve’s New York Times-bestselling short stories and the heartrendingly beautiful poems that won Ocean the Whiting Award. Why not enjoy new work?
Kristen: Omg what if Steve Almond and Ocean Vuong came to your reading? You’d die.
Kristen: Correct. I’d die. And then faint. And then die. And then resurrect myself. And then ask them to come for a drink at Colette. And then fall off my barstool. And then ask them for an autograph.
Kristen: Is your essay too long?
Kristen: I’m a windbag of epic proportions, but I timed this sucker at home. Can we wrap it up? I think the audience was hoping to get to the wine soon.
Kristen: Do you think you should have chosen a different piece to read?
Kristen: For once I’ll try to be like the Edith Piaf song and have no regrets.
Kristen: I wonder if you still have time to revise.
Kristin: Wait. I think I have a pen in my purse.
Kristen Paulson-Nguyen lives in Boston, where she invites you to join her in her self-imposed challenge to write an essay each week. Her micro-essay was published in Issue #71 of Creative Nonfiction. Kristen’s work has also appeared in Hippocampus Magazine. Her poem “Spring Birds” was exhibited in Poem Village, a project of the Adirondack Center for Writing. Follow her on Twitter @kpnwriter.
Photo credit: Lauren Rheaume