Nothin’ scary about live literary combat. Except everything.

Of course I hid behind my alter-ego, the Mother of Dragons. Photo from Keep St. Pete Lit via Facebook.

Of course I hid behind my alter-ego, the Mother of Dragons.

So, last weekend, I did this event. It’s called the Lucha Libro Literary Death Match, and it’s about as terrifying as it sounds. Think prompt competition, sudden death style. Two writers sit down facing each other over electric typewriters (yep, typewriters) and have to come up with a new work based on a series of prompts, which happened to be random words from Moby Dick. And did I mention all of this is in front of an audience?

So I had to create something right there, something people wanted to hear and cheer for—something that would win their hearts. And while I pride myself on my writing, I can tell you I’ve never considered myself a performer. Nor have I tested my writing raw, without combing over it carefully first.

The thing is, I won. But the more important thing is, I almost didn’t do it because I was so scared. Seriously. A friend of mine organized and hosted the event, and he invited me to be a competitor. And I put off answering for a couple of days. And then, once I said yes, I put off planning my costume. And then, once I planned my costume, I shoved the entire thing out of my mind and pretended it wasn’t happening until I was sitting there at that typewriter and the clock started ticking.

Here’s another important thing: I loved it. Granted, I might’ve had a strong mixed cocktail to soothe my nerves, but I’d never experienced the immediacy of writing something and then automatically receiving feedback on it. Positive feedback. By the end of it, I had fans. I had people rooting for me to win. And the entire competition was audience-judged, so I wouldn’t have won without their support. And I was up against some great writers, too—some of Tampa’s best.

Said strong cocktail.

Said strong cocktail.

I also realized that, even if I’m in front of a heckling crowd with the host counting down in my ear, I can still shut out all of that. There’s a place I go when I write, and that place is still accessible to me no matter how much pressure is stacked on my shoulders.

But I’d never have known that, and I’d never have felt that crowd’s support, if I had listened to my fears. And they were screaming at me not to do it. Which is the reason I knew I had to.

So I learned to never let myself stay within my comfort zone. And while I still wouldn’t call myself a performer, I can say I’m the champion of Tampa/St. Pete’s (and possibly the country’s) first Lucha Libro Literary Death Match. And that’s—well, that’s something.

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