My Musical Family - Joy Riggs

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A blog about my family's adventures in making and appreciating music.
Updated: 1 hour 51 min ago


Sun, 11/29/2015 - 7:26pm
It’s difficult to convey how exciting it was to stand up in front of two receptive audiences last week—a crowd of about 25 people on Monday afternoon, and nearly 75 in the evening—and read six excerpts from my book-in-progress.

The two readings went as well as I could have hoped. I made people laugh and cry, and in all the right places! And I managed not to cry, myself—a goal I was determined to achieve, and did achieve, thanks to all the reading aloud practice I did in the weeks leading up to the event.

My mom took this photo of me after the 3:15 p.m. reading.My daughter, Louisa, told me later that there was a moment during an emotional scene from Chapter 6 when the evening audience gave a collective exhale. I didn’t hear it, but I did hear the burst of laughter that came a few sentences later, following a line of dialogue by my mom that I personally find quite funny. It was thrilling to know that words I have written—and in some cases have rewritten and rewritten—engaged and moved people, and it was doubly thrilling to observe the reaction by a live audience. There is no better reward than that for an author.

(Oh, sure, money would be nice, too, but if your work doesn’t entertain or move people, it’s missing something important.)

Photos my uncle Bill took during the evening reading.Writing is mostly a solitary experience, and it’s often hard to know how your work is going to be received until you put it out there. I am not the best at promoting myself and explaining what I have been working on for months and months now; I worry that people’s eyes will glaze over as soon as they hear the words “band history,” or that when I say I am writing about my great-grandfather, they will assume I’m writing a work of genealogy that is of interest only to immediate family members.

But last week, I was able to show friends, family and interested community members what the work of memoir and narrative nonfiction is really about, and essentially say: “This is what I’m doing! I think it’s coming together, and I am proud of it!”

Photo my cousin Kristina took after the 7 p.m. reading.I have many people to thank for the success of last Monday’s events. They include: the Northfield Retirement Center (especially Milosha Malecha) for hosting the afternoon event; the Northfield Senior Center (especially Chris Ellison and Patsy Dew) for hosting the evening event; my fellow board members of the Vintage Band Festival (especially president Jan Stevens) for sponsoring the events; Paul Hager of Northfield Community Television for filming the afternoon reading; Northfield High School saxophone quintet members Gus Carlson, Nick Dempsey, Oli Hunter, Brady Malecha and Ben Mohlke for performing before the evening event; NHS band director Mary Williams for coordinating the appearance of the sax quintet and for advertising the event; St. Olaf Band Director Tim Mahr for his assistance in advertising the event; the Northfield News and reporter Kevin Krein for the article about my reading; the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council, for awarding me the grant that made the event possible; poster artist Doug Bratland; author/teacher/mentor Kate Hopper, for her editing expertise and enthusiastic support; all my awesome friends and family members; and every person who took the time on Monday to come out and hear me read.

The only photo I took that night, of the sax quintet warming up the crowd.Speaking of awesome family members, it occurred to me after the event that I should have asked someone to take photos during and after the readings, since I was a little busy. Fortunately, my mom, my cousin Kristina Riggs Borsch and my uncle Bill Lowell did take photos and kindly shared them.

I asked audience members at both events to write down the names of music teachers or directors who had inspired them, and I promised to post the names on my blog. I was excited to see how many people participated! I will post the names later this week in a separate blog entry.

Cake photo by my cousin Kristina.G. Oliver’s delicious birthday cake is all gone now, and the next chapters of the book don’t seem to be writing themselves, so ... back to writing I go!
Categories: Citizens

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