NewPages book review by Katy Haas
As a writer who is very prone to anxiety and stage fright, I’ve always turned down the opportunity to participate in readings. I can’t help running all the worst case scenarios through my head. This led me to picking up my copy of What Could Possibly Go Wrong? the pocket-sized anthology edited by Richard Peabody, featuring 36 writers sharing their own readings gone wrong.
The anthology starts off on a more serious note. Brett Axel’s reading devolves into a protest as police crash it, assuming the worst of teenage attendees. Abby Bardi’s publicity tour ends prematurely as it coincides with 9/11.
But a majority of these horror stories are less serious and more humorous. Mark Baechtel walks himself into a corner with one bad decision he commits to. Barbara Esstman has a selection of not one but four bad readings, and, luckily, she approaches each of them with levity. Alma Katsu is interrupted by a loud cheerleading practice. Both good weather and bad weather interfere with multiple readings. Tim Wendel must compete against the midnight release of his nemesis: Harry Potter.
Each writer presents their story with lightness and humor. Things didn’t go as planned, but they made it through and are still around writing and participating in more readings. I now find some comfort in the seemingly universality of readings gone awry. Sure, things might go wrong, but at least the experience will be there to laugh at (and possibly write about) later.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Edited by Richard Peabody. Paycock Press, 2019.