(Originally posted on CarolMRamsey.com)
Not making the Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) cast sucks. Look at how happy, smart and fulfilled the cast members above look. I should know how it sucks because I submitted, but did not make the cast, three years in a row.
LTYM is an annual, national show with performances in thirty-nine cities, always around Mother’s Day. Cast members read their personal essays on the theme of Motherhood to audiences of several hundred people. Wendi Aarons and Liz McGuire, the original producers of the Austin show, nurtured the show’s warm and generous spirit. They also encouraged each year’s cast members to join the LTYM community of writers that lives long after the show.
Because LTYM is more than a typical essay submission, the rejection can be felt more deeply and personally. If you submitted, but did not make the cast, here are five ways you can feel better:
- Know that this probably isn’t a reflection on your writing. Performance-based shows don’t evaluate each piece on its own merit and then select the very best. To build a cohesive show with common themes and a satisfying arc, producers make tradeoffs between the available pieces.
- If you feel a deep need to connect with others through your writing and it hurts when your attempts to connect aren’t successful, then congratulations, you are a writer. This feeling will be your long-time companion and it will help drive you to become a better writer.
- Read. Write. Take a class, check out Michael Noll and Owen Edgerton’s classes. Write. Write. Write. Work with a writing coach, maybe Jodi Edgerton or LTYM’s own Cate Berry. Read about writing, like Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. Find a writing partner and read each other’s work. Read writers you want to write like, for me it’s Erika Kleinman. Hang out with writers who write better than you, for me, it’s Erika and Virginia Woodruff. Read for fun. Then write some more. [Yeah, whatever, Carol. You might as well tell me to get an MFA in Creative Writing at Texas State. It’s not like I don’t have a job, husband and kids and I like to sleep at least part of each night.] I hear you and I feel your struggle. Pick one idea at a time. Do what you can, knowing that writing each piece isn’t about writing, it’s about learning to write better.
- Read your essay to a live audience. No Shame is an open mic for comedy, music, stories and anything really, so long as you don’t hurt the stage or the audience. The show is the first and third Friday nights at 10pm at Salvage Vanguard Theater. Show up at 9:30 to sign-up to perform. Performances are limited to five minutes. Bring your friends. Get on the stage. See the expression in people’s eyes and hear them laugh or sigh or cry as you read. The extra bonus for this is, the feedback will help you write better.
- Go see LTYM this year, Saturday, April 25 at 3pm and 7pm. Check here for ticket sales, coming soon. The more you listen, the more you will know what you want to say next year.
I finally made the LTYM cast last year, on my fourth attempt. It was the experience I hoped for. But, I’m not done with all these ways to feel better. Because it’s not about the writing, it’s about learning to write better and that is never done.