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It was the end of the first day of the KSRA (Keystone State Reading Association) Annual Conference, and Melanie, my new-found conference friend, and I decided to hit the last session of the day- a night event called Poetry Fun. The program guide listed the poets, Sara Holbrook, Michael Salinger, and Janet Wong, along with the following description: Be inspired to write, share, and enjoy poetry!

Okay! Let’s go see what we can learn.

We took seats down toward the front on the right side of the room and chatted about our day while waiting for the program to begin. Within minutes, we soon learned that this was not going to be a typical session. This was going to be highly interactive! Ummm. They’re asking us to share poems? Get up and read? I could feel myself trying to be smaller in my chair. Please don’t call on me, came the shrinking, quaky voice in my head. Michael Salinger brought his big voice into our small space and pointed out that the fear of public speaking trumps the fear of dying for a majority of people. Not new information, and not helping me to overcome my own fear of presenting to a room full of adults.

I warred with my inner self. A part of me wanted to get up there, be part of the energy of the room. But… the voices… What if I turn red? What if my voice sounds shaky and tight? What if the room is silent– in an uncomfortable, awkward way? What if my poem (and there was one that was sitting in my writer’s notebook) is too serious?

And then, Clare, of the famed Clare and Tammy (teachersforteachers.net, and the book, Assessment in Perspective) got up and read the poem she had written. It was serious, and it worked.

I should get up there. I can’t get up. There’s glue on my chair.  The voices in my head have grown muscles, and they are holding me in place.

When the session ends, Melanie and I agree that it was engaging and fun. I have been inspired by those who were able to do what I was not. I make it a point to go talk with Clare Landrigan…

Thank you for sharing your poem. It was beautiful. And I’ve read your blog. It’s excellent. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I wish I could have done what you did. I kept telling myself I should get up there…

Okay, I’m pretty sure I’m rambling or gushing or both. I pause. Clare offers encouragement, and asks if I have written for the Slice of Life. No, but I keep telling myself I need to do it.

Each time I consider it, I experience a crisis of confidence because “writing aloud” is just as terrifying as public speaking. I’ve been working on this- building the courage to share my thoughts, my ideas, my voice.

I know. I should do it, I tell Clare. But, what would I write about? What do I have to add to a group that is my daily source of information and inspiration? Clare says, You have your unique perspective. That’s what you add. And, this moment right now, is a slice. You can write about this.

You’re right. I can. I will. I did. Thank you, Clare, for inspiring me with your poem, and for encouraging me to add my voice to the Slice of Life Challenge. This is one more first in my writing and teaching adventures!