Oh, Hell No! A 2nd Story Virgin

The Preview
When I went to see my first 2nd Story show I was quite impressed with the set-up- from the fancy bar, to the amazing readers to the sound that accompanied the words. I wanted this. I wanted to be in that seat telling a story, so what did I do? Drive home, yank out the journal and write?  C’mon, now I’m a writer. Don’t be ridiculous. I went home and daydreamed instead about having the courage to perform in front of a large group of people.

The Invitation

Bobby, you know Bobby, who doesn’t know Bobby, even the people that don’t think they know Bobby know Bobby, asked me to submit a piece. I said, Okay. That was that. Now, I had said yes. Now, I had to submit.

The Submission

I don’t write creative non-fiction. Not that my real life doesn’t allow for interesting stories. Should I pick the story of getting locked up when I was seventeen because the cop was racist and called me a spic? How about getting jumped by a group of girls when I was in 7th grade because they wanted—and got—my New Kids on the Block button? I’m a pretty open book. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am many more cliques that have to do with being expressive, but writing about it felt foreign. The audience would know it really happened to me. I didn’t want it to just be sad or just funny. I wanted it to be both, so I chose the story of my ma giving me the sex talk and how the boys made fun of my looks. See? Sad and funny.

The Call

I got called they wanted me to come and audition. The last time I had an audition for anything was for the Luvabulls back when I was a limber, 23-year-old. Have you seen me at halftime or on a calendar? That should tell you how it went.

The Audition

I brought in my piece. I had read it to friends, getting it down, but when I got into the room with Bobby, and Katie, and others, my preparedness was in reading it as a writer, not performing the piece. I remember Bobby giving me the disclaimer before I started that he would be giving me constructive criticism. When I read the piece through the first time, he said, “That was good. Now, don’t read it like that.” It needed me, of all things—my voice, not just the piece’s. I did it again, tried to be more conversational, grabbed some confidence from the red heels I was wearing and when done trudged to my car, took the heels off, and wondered if I blew it.

The Wait

It was a few weeks. I heard nothing. When I’d see Megan on campus, I didn’t want to stop her positive vibes by saying, Hey, there! Did I suck or what? I’m very impatient. I’m trying to be better about it, it’s a process, but I get tired of waiting for the process to happen.

The Acceptance

I think I got an email about it. It’s all a blur. I was so excited. Take that you half-naked dancers.

The First Meeting

After I checked the website, and saw who the other performers were, I felt like the bottom of a totem pole. These people—Lizzie, JC, & Brendan—had it going on. They had experience and here I was new to it all. When I met them, I sat in a recliner in the shadows as the rain poured on the windows, each plop sounding like You’re out of your league, Cyn and after we read through our pieces, and I got a sneak preview on what they could do, I was to say the least intimidated. What did I get myself into? I was going to make a fool out of myself in front of people that paid to see a good show. I was reading my piece. Not performing it. You know? Like watching porn while doing laundry. I’m not saying I ever did that, now. Maybe.

Subsequential Meetings

We met as a group a few more times. The whole group was very supportive of each other. Giving feedback in way of questions, sharing knowledge and such. It was almost like a support group for Writers Who Don’t Know How To Perform. Well, a group for me at least. They made me feel less different for never having done it. I, also just kept reminding myself I was still in the safe zone, the revision zone. I’m a writer. I live in a constant state of revision, but as with anything that didn’t last.

The Rehearsals

I met with Reshmi and Katie. Now, I’m going to reveal something here, I don’t usually reveal. I may be all extroverted and whatnot, but I can become very shy. No one that knows me will believe that. I was the one who went up to Conan O’Brien and wrapped my arms around him and told him I loved him. I read through the piece and they gave me great feedback. Insert some more of your attitude in this part. I was sort of in shock with that one. Usually I’m told to take my attitude out of things. I went home feeling well, like yet again, what did I get myself into, but I practiced to my friends and to my dog Olivia. That mutt has heard the story about getting the sex talk so many times, she doesn’t even laugh anymore.

The A-ha! Moment

It was another 15-hour day for me. I got home, the house quiet, everyone slept as I should’ve been, but I couldn’t. The piece was gnawing at me. It didn’t suck, but it wasn’t it’s best, so I stayed up, with a bottle of hard cider, with my dog Olivia asleep on my feet on the couch, and revised, and performed it over and over again and it happened. I had put my all into it and I was finally happy with it. Just 48 hours before the opening, I finally had it.

The Tech Rehearsal

The afternoon before the first performance. I met with Reshmi and Nick. After driving thirty minutes through a thunderstorm and driving around a fire on Irving Park Road, I made it. After so much practicing, I did my thing and Nick did his with the sound. Being a writer, I’ve never had music to my stories, and hearing it was so awesome. It heightened my performance even. It was going to rock.

The Final Rehearsal

I sat in the chair. The mic in front of me. The light in my eyes. A narrow almost-empty room in front of me. It was happening. You look nervous. Ok, I’ll lower my hands. Maybe that will help. Remember to enunciate. I have trouble enunciating enunciate.


Ok. Don’t be nervous. Have fun. Yes, fun. I almost forgot about that. Am I going to do it right? Is it going to be good? It’s sold out? A room full of people watching my first time. Will I rush through it? Take my time? Watching. All eyes on me for those eleven or so minutes. Jumping, stretching, laughing always laughing, helps with nerves, I think. It’s time. Are you ready? The answer doesn’t really matter. After weeks and weeks, I prepared for this moment. Just fucking do it. Do it.

First Performance

Now, people looked at me. Waited. Music started and I began. The first page I felt like I read too fast, but after the faces smiled and laughed and leaned forward, I thought This feels awesome. I slowed down, enjoyed the ride. I stepped off the chair when I was done, went to the back of the room. My fellow readers and I hugged as we did each time one of us performed. My friends said I did great. I breathed. I drank. I smiled.

Second & Final Performance

I didn’t feel as nervous as the night before until people started to stroll in and then the nerves crept back. Every audience is different. How would this one react? Although, it was my second time, it really was like it was my first all over again. I stood in the back with Lizzie, JC, and Brendan. I went up there, sat in my seat and reminded myself that yesterday was fun and this time it should be too.  And it was. And as I walked to the back of the room, hugging my fellow readers, and downing my beer, I felt a little sad because it was over. All the hard work had paid off and then the moments came and went so quickly.

The Morning After

Dear 2nd Story: No regrets. I miss you. Thanks for making my first time feel so fucking good. Call me, yes? XO -Cyn

Second Stories


  • THIS IS SO FANTASTIC! Thank you for sharing, Cyn. I’m so sad I couldn’t be there, I was out of town representing 2nd Story in New York. But thanks so much for representing for 2nd Story here in Chicago!

    Comment by Amanda Delheimer Dimond, Reply

  • That was lovely! Of course :)

    Comment by Lizzie, Reply

  • I love this! Sad I missed it, but felt like I was there with you!

    My favorite line: “I’m a writer. I live in a constant state of revision, but as with anything that didn’t last.” So poetic!

    Love you, Maggie

    Comment by Maggie, Reply

  • I knew you’d be great, Cyn! Iwish I could have been there. I loved this blog post. So well written, just like everything else you write. :)

    Comment by Mikaela, Reply

  • Can you give me the sex talk? My mother never had it with me? It’s never too late right!
    Congratulations on your ” first time”. Here is to many more! I hope to be there for your future ones!
    xoxoxoxoxoxoxo, Doris

    Comment by Doris Cole, Reply

  • Lovely lovely piece! Also Cyn, I LOVE your tweets. You crack me up!

    Comment by Madeline, Reply

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