And the innocent emerged complete.
Yesterday, my story paid the price my mouth bartered for. In an overheated room filled with people in the back of a comic book store, I read it aloud for the first time to a bunch of strangers I'm starting to call my friends. I trembled my way through the first reader's technically perfect, highly enjoyable, funny story, trying to calm my nerves with Dr Pepper and failing. Not only did I have to read, but I had to follow an act like that? Sure, let's just have me perform my first concert following up a show by Journey. I sat beside the person manning the timer and watched as the clock ticked down, counted as every person gave their critique, which was mostly, "Wow, that's great, I want more." Oh lord, the critwolves are going to be hungry. They weren't fed for the first story. I was going to get destroyed.
"Time. Maggie, your turn. When you're ready."
Never ready, but everyone was looking at me. So I started reading. They laughed at the first joke. I read more. They laughed again. I stumbled at a few places, but just before my 15 minutes were up, I finished the excerpt I had brought. Nothing to do but wait to be torn to shreds.
It never came. They liked it. They wanted to read the rest and see where it was going. They hoped it would get darker because I had set it up well to get dark (it does). They got the references and enjoyed them. The editor of the group said, "If I'd pulled this out of my slush pile, I would undoubtedly read the rest of it." That was it, that was all he had to say. Oh, my god.
There were a few minor things people pointed out that I agree with, but otherwise, most of them were interested in knowing where it goes from there and even said hours later how much they loved the premise. I entered the wolves den and emerged with my story, spine, and skin intact. Now I can spend the next few meetings learning to be a wolf.