Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Miscellany

As usual, once I write enough organized, one-topic posts I wind up with a bunch of smaller thoughts that need a place to go.

1. In finishing out the last semester of my graduate degree, I did two public readings and two semipublic readings. They were terrific. I love giving readings and I will miss the opportunity to do it. I guess I either need to join somebody's reading series or start a series of my own.

For the final GRS (Graduate Reading Series, which I've been co-running at CSUN all year), I read what I most wanted to, which meant I read a piece of the secret project, a poem (!) about hawks, and my manifesto. It meant a lot to me to get to read these things in front of an audience, particularly an audience that's known me for a long time but might not have heard/read this stuff of mine. I got positive responses.

Beyond my own experience, it was wonderful it was to hear my dearest Jesse read his poetry for the first time in well over a year. His work is so good, SO good, and I needed it.

For the first semipublic reading, I meant to read a piece of the revised final project I did for that class, and instead I ended up speaking sort of extemporaneously and reading a piece of this blog post, which had nothing to do with the class, and I don't really know how I ended up there but it made sense at the time. For the second semipublic reading, I read the start of the second chapter of the Casablanca novel I've started writing (did I mention that here? I'm writing a novel about Casablanca), and I think it went over fine.

The final reading was for 698D, my capstone/"thesis" class, and I was nervous for the first time in about six months. I'd been at a microphone easily a dozen times in the meantime, but this one, wow. My hands trembled. The reason was the material. I decided to read some of my hardest stories: the codex for why I will never live in New England again, the time I cried over a Banquet frozen dinner. I was afraid of being so vulnerable. Which is weird, because vulnerability doesn't usually scare me, but...I don't know. I was such a different person when I went through all that. Which explains itself, kind of; I wouldn't be who I am without crying over that Banquet dinner. Yet if this material wasn't interesting, or worth hearing, maybe that meant I was not an interesting or worthwhile person? [gestures with flappy hands] Whatever. I read the hard thing and I don't think it went as well as GRS but it's over and fine.

2. There's been some literary-world kerfuffle about this article, which says you HAVE TO HAVE TO write every day if you want to be a writer. No, you don't. I didn't even click on it when I started seeing it around last week, because no, you don't, and people who say that are locked into thinking there's One Right Way to do writing. Few things exist with One Right Way attached to them. I sat and stared at the wall and thought about this just now for several minutes, and drilled on down to things that are the same for everyone, like bodily functions, and even then I can't settle on the idea that yes, there's one right way to urinate and all the other ways are wrong. Human beings always have a choice.

But that is very far off the point, which is no, you don't have to write every day. I don't. I do, however, take writing seriously, which is the practice I think is truly important if you want to be a writer, and which practice I believe looks different for everybody. Consequently, in about two weeks I'll have another publication to tell you about. Take that, dude on Salon whose books I've never read.

3. I had to cut this out of my post about Girl and Incest:

In the suburb where I lived during high school, there was briefly a bookstore in the same plaza as our local music store/safe haven, Record & Tape Traders. I don't know what the deal was with this bookstore, whether it was an indie or an overstock seller like Crown, but I found there one of the most unusual books I've ever read: Exegesis, by Astro Teller (who, the internet tells me, now runs Google[x], which surprises me not at all). I bought it because the cover was nearly black, with an imprinted :) on it, and that looked interesting. I imagine the book would seem very quaint now, because it's about AI and takes the form of emails and instant messaging, all circa 1997, but at the time its form and subjects were totally new to me. It was one of those books that drops out of nowhere and back into nowhere. It's never come up anywhere else in my life, and in the middle of a high school curriculum it was exotic indeed.

4. Augh, I forgot to tell you about this interview with Gayle Brandeis! It was the most fun one yet. Two more interviews are on their way.

5. Somehow I have become a person who asks for, and receives, ARCs (advanced reader copies). I don't know how. It's a delicious mystery and it makes me feel very fancy indeed.

6. Related to this, I've become convinced that the best way to be a writer in the world is to lift other writers up. I've had a lot of good luck in the past two years, but I've also tried hard to spread the work of others out in the world: giving small-press books away to people I think would like them, sharing poetry and essays around, telling people about writers/friends I know that I think they should know. Every victory for every writer I know is a victory for me, too. I don't know which way the karma is flowing for me, but I don't really think that's the point of karma. 

I guess this is networking, in its truest sense. But it seems to be going well. 

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