Archive for the ‘Readings’ Category

I’m naive, I admit it

March 28, 2010

One of my goals has always been to be published. By a major publishing company. With an editor. And, most importantly, a nice advance that could (maybe) pay my bills for a bit. I also always sorta expect a publishing house to be helpful in pushing me (or any author) in the right direction regarding publicity of said work.

Then I read this blog by Mitzi Szereto.

Then I read this page by Jim Cox at the Midwest Book Review.

Then I talked to a couple of other friends of mine who are knee (well, shoulder) deep in MFA Master/PhD programs.

And I discovered how horribly naive I really am about the whole publishing mess. Any hope that a publisher would help a writer succeed appears blind and destined for failure. Want to do readings? Book’em yourself. Want to get reviewers to read the thing? Send them copies.

Unfortunately, if you’re like me (and you’re probably not, so you’re fine), you don’t really interact well with people. Or maybe you are like me which means that, like me, you have some work to do. for the first time, networking is taking on a clear importance and meaning.  Friends (or at least people who want to remain acquaintances and who may later ask you for a favor) are essential.

But how do you make friends, especially in a world where you are literally a tiny fish in a MASSIVE sea? I come from a small ass town in SE Michigan. I have lately moved to Cleveland.  Not exactly the center of the universe or, especially, the literary universe (Though Dan Chaon lives about 10 minutes away, and I guess Harvey Pekar lives somewhere in this town, so there’s some people whose names are at least noticeable on bookshelves). Given such a situation, it’s easy to look around and wonder how the hell you’re supposed to meet/greet/schmooze anyone.

Well, first, send stuff out. Obvious answer. People like you enough to publish you, on their dime, that’s a great first step in fostering allegiances to call on when needed. Second, use the web. Search for blogs and websites related to your interests/writings/etc. And comment. Say stuff. It’s easy, even if you do look like a naive nit (such as I on Mitzi’s blog). And just know that it’s going to happen. Don’t be an ass. Just be you (unless you are an ass then try to be something less you).

As I crawl, drag, stagger towards finishing the (first) re-write of my first novel I have considered hurling into the world, I’ve started taking these steps. And credit goes to people like Mitzi Szerato and Jim Cox for erecting islands of illumination in the publishing darkness. Eventually, I hope to provide something similar. Until then, I’ll keep plugging away and trying to be a bit less naive.

And I’ll try to shake more hands.

The Reading

March 12, 2010

Last night I went to a poetry reading involving my g/f and a couple of other women. Apparently this month is Women’s History Month or something. I don’t mean for that to sound denigrating, I really am not sure what it is as it was only mentioned to me once, but it set the stage for who was presenting poems and for the subject matter.

I’m happy to say the whole thing went well. Kate was good. She says she was nervous but it didn’t show. The second lady I wasn’t overly thrilled with but was still good. Confident. at ease. the open mic was less successful. One woman read a poem by someone else, a poem about a woman with a hat made from iguanas. It went far too long and I couldn’t help but wonder why someone would read a poem on open mic that wasn’t there own. One woman delivered her poem particularly well, from memory, clearly accostomed to performing but it lost energy halfway through. An undergrad got up and read poems that sounded like poems written by an undergrad but he gets marks for just stepping up and doing it.

What  I again realized, though, was something I’ve realized in the past. I’m not always good at following something being spoken. My interest wavers. I lose track of what’s being said or I simply don’t bother following it from the start.

What I do pay attention to is the person. The performance. The audience. Kate looked good up there. The audience laughed at seemingly appropriate moments. Without entirely following her poems I knew she was doing well.

Strangely, the poetry I followed the best was the one that was more directly performed rather than read. She was a blonde woman, sturdy with hair that just seemed to go everywhere for a bit. She wore glasses, rectangularish with this plastic frames. Very much the student look before incorporating such quirks in smaller more focused ways for adulthood. Her poem started out and it was funny and catchy about tits on TV at the house of her guy friends but it devolved into a bit of social commentary and what not and lost its energy.

There is something about a performance that focuses my attention.

What’s doubly odd is that I can sit through a recorded reading just fine. I have been watching some David Foster Wallace readings on youtube lately and find them interesting and engaging. But they can’t be all that different from a reading attended in person. Granted, he may just have a style that I find easier to “get into” but maybe the fact that it is filtered through a screen also has something to do with it. The idea that it becomes instantly more entertaining and engaging the moment it is viewed through an additional medium rather than just with my own eyes some how making it more palatable is an interesting and also disturbing one.

Does something filtered through an entertainment medium now lend credibility, even if only subconsciously? I mean, I watch television and I can decide what I think is crap and what isn’t crap and what I want to watch and what I don’t want to watch. but is there still a thought process saying that at least since it’s on television that there must be some purpose to it? Something that makes it worth of being transported to my living room as entertainment? and what’s youtube but the world’s largest cable subscription? Granted, most of the shows are, at most, a few minutes long but still, they’re there to be decided upon whether or not they should be viewed and just being there…well, are they more legitimate for that?

and this is without going into the idea of what exactly legitimacy is. Something that I, frankly, don’t want to delve into right now and will leave for everyone to contextualize as they desire. After all, I think that once given a basic set of parameters, even loosely defined as in the rambling predecessor to this paragraph, I think a general idea of legitimacy as intended by for this piece can be approximated by everyone.

In the end, all I’m really wondering is why I can watch a reading on youtube and be entertained and engaged and follow what is being said while not having a roughly equative experience in-person. I wonder if this is some innate or, possibly, learned shortcoming of mine of if it is something everyone has to deal with. And it’s not a problem I solely have with readings of fiction/poetry but with concerts as well. I’ve been to a few verve pipe concerts with my girlfriend and, outside of the songs I know, I’ve really had no idea what was being sung for great stretches of time but I did enjoy the music. Like a verve pipe concert, last night I didn’t always know what was going on but I did enjoy the music.