May-hem at Fiction Addiction

 

Tuesday night at 2A was such a blast. I was honored when Christine Vines asked me to read for her thirteen month old series, Fiction Addiction, and frankly a bit intimidated by the line-up of Jennifer Gilmore, Dale Peck and Terese Svoboda, who I think collectively have something like twenty five books published. Turns out they were all charming and down-to-earth, not to mention excellent readers.

I’ve been to this series before to support my friends who’ve read there. The line-ups are always consistently strong and the space is just great. A cool upstairs lounge, $4 whiskey specials and your face projected onto a fifty foot wall outside on Avenue A while you read– what more could a guy ask for? Christine is also super chill and really friendly. She’s not even twenty four and she runs one of the most successful series in the city, which is a great tribute to her charm and drive.

It was fun to read “Cruising” last night, mostly because my brother was in the audience and I knew he’d appreciate all the references. In my late 20′s-early 30′s, my parents wanted us to spend time together as a family, so they would pay for my brother, my sister-in-law, my three nephews and me to go on a cruise with them once a year. The story tries to explain, in the collective first person, what it feels like to be a gay man on what is arguably one of the most hetero environments on the planet, the family cruise.

it was great to see some familiar faces in the crowd, so once again, thanks for coming out, friends! As the evening wound down and the Jameson kept appearing before me, I got to meet a few of the regulars at 2A, most notably Dustin, who was well past his fifth drink and seemed to take a shine to me. Dustin said that I “read well” but he’s not much of a readings guy. In fact, this was the first time he’s come upstairs to hear folks, and he thought we were all reading other people’s work. Christine explained the process to him while he played with my arm hair. I laughed and told him he was objectifying me and that I felt like a woman. I was also a bit afraid since Dustin’s a pretty big guy and he was well, friendly drunk but just on the cusp of belligerence. When he asked me if it made a difference that he owned four buildings across the street, I laughed and reached for my bag. Then he said “I can get on a treadmill, you know,” and I laughed harder and hid behind my friend Linda. Lucky for me, Linda had brought her friend Neil, who Dustin was also quite fond of because he was “so Jewish.” Of course, Neil isn’t Jewish at all; he’s Indian. But he was wearing glasses and drunk as Dustin was, that was Jewish enough.

So Dustin pulled Neil onto the dance floor. Something vaguely eighties was playing, and Dustin held Neil close, which must have been a fairly new experience for Neil since he’s straight. Meanwhile, Jude Law walks into the bar and Christine brings him up in conversation.  Apparently I had no idea this was happening and was just running off at the mouth at how I had gone with my mother to see Jude Law in Indiscretions on Broadway in the early-mid 90′s, before he was famous, and the entirety of act II he was naked and frankly both me and mom were drooling. I was speaking loudly and at this point Jude was still right behind me at the bar. As soon as someone acknowledged him out loud he stormed off to the front part of the bar where the readings were and then sent his very tall, very blonde, very young lady friend to fetch drinks for the two of them. Nice.

I don’t have pictures of the last part, but the video of the reading turned out great, so check it out!

 

 

 

 

An Amazing Night at Book Court: The Sackett Street Reading

I had been looking forward to this evening for months! Back in November, I attended the launch of the Sackett Street reading series–a revival of sorts, since we used to have readings back in the days when I was a teacher–and was thrilled to catch up with Julia Fierro the director and her husband Justin and some other familiar faces. I already knew the space would be great–the amazing Book Court, one of the great independent bookstores in New York–and what was so encouraging was not just the size of the crowd but also that fuzzy warm feeling of being surrounded by people who’ve participated in the Sackett Street Workshop in some way. All of us were there to show our support and love to a woman whose has influenced so many writers–the list of Sackett alumni who have graduated from prestigious MFA programs and/or published books keeps growing, and one look at the roster of teachers and you know how influential Sackett has become.

It was a great honor to be asked to read, and an even greater honor to be introduced by Julia herself, who spoke so kindly about my novel and how it influenced her writing.(Agents, take note!)  But like I said when I got up to the podium, the debt of gratitude is all mine. I came to Sackett Street after coming off a particularly unkind workshop. It had been a good five years since I got my MFA and I was feeling a bit lost and dejected. And Julia was like my guardian angel. She was so supportive and encouraging and she really restored my confidence as a writer. She even hired me to teach for Sackett which showed how willing she was to take a chance on an unknown writer. I feel very lucky to be part of the Sackett family.

And the evening went so well! Despite the rain, it was a full house. We all got to sit under that amazing skylight and drink some wine. I read a condensed version of “Dear Guy in 24B,” one of the stories in my collection. What a treat it was to hear my fellow readers: Madeline McDonell, Julie Innis and Nick Dybek. It was particularly interesting to hear how different our pieces and voices were. I’m really looking forward to reading their books!

Thanks to everyone who came out and particularly my friends who came to support me. Your presence means a lot!

The Sackett Reading Series happens once every two months at Book Court, and the lineup is always stellar. The people who work at Book Court are super friendly and the whole vibe is very relaxed and fun. Do check it out!

 

BLOOM reading

 

What a true pleasure it was to be part of last night’s amazing line-up of readers in celebration of BLOOM’s current issue. If you don’t know, BLOOM is arguably the best literary mag out there that focuses on LGBT writers and content. The tireless Charles Flowers founded the magazine, and I am so honored to be included in this issue. Some of the best LGBT writers the world over have been contributors.

The reading was held at the Gay and Lesbian Center in the West Village and the line-up included seven poets with my reading sandwiched in between–or as I said when I went up to the stage (in true diva fashion), I was the Madonna half time show of the poetry Superbowl. Each of us read from our pieces published in BLOOM; I read an excerpt from my story “Body and Mind”, and I was very happy to see more than sixty people in the audience!

The fabulous readers included Jan Freeman, Saeed Jones, Joan Larkin, Daniel Lee, Bo McGuire, Michael Montlack and Elaine Sexton. The poems were fantastic–both playful and mournful, funny and moving, sometimes in the same piece. I’m in awe of the precision of their language, their rhythm, the terrific use of repetition and their fearlessness.

Many of us wore flowery shirts (or should I just say blouses?) in honor of the magazine. Big thanks to Michael Montlack for once again proving he’s the best organizer around. Thanks also to Charles for continuously putting out an amazing product, and to all of my fellow contributors. Lastly, major thanks to all those who came out, who purchased the recent issue and back issues, and a special thanks to my friends who came out to support me–it means so much that you’re willing to be there!

What a Night: Margins of Tolerance Launch Party Recap

Around 7:30 on Saturday night, I returned to the Gowanus Ballroom, dressed and ready for the party, still repeating the mantra I’d been saying to myself all week: everything will be fine.

I had reason to be concerned. As of 11am that morning, the space was, to put it mildly, a friggin mess (pardon my Brooklyn). Half a dozen forty foot metal slabs occupied what was supposed to be the stage area, several welders were busy at work on their metal projects and a film crew was shooting in the corner, a host of model sets and other props scattered across the room. There was no chance they could clean all of this up in nine hours.

But they did. And I have to thank TJ Volonis for not only devoting his entire day to making sure it all got done, but to reassuring me that this was just how they operated: everything miraculously comes together at the last minute. I had been to parties there before, but I had my doubts. All of them were erased when I walked in to the now dimly lit space. The metal slabs had been pushed into a corner, and the film props were tucked behind a curtain, making the enormous space both more intimate and dramatic. And if the ballroom is anything, it’s certainly dramatic: a  forty foot high wood ceiling. An indoor tree house. Several life-sized cast-iron horse sculptures and other enormous pieces. I was ecstatic about hosting my party there.

Still, the concern was whether I could even pull off such a large scale event. Lord knows I like to throw parties, and have had pretty big ones at my apartment. But this was another animal altogether. I wanted this not only to be a celebration of the book–after so many years of struggling to get published, this was my moment to exhale–but also a celebration of emerging artists everywhere, a whole bunch of us getting together to create a wild, memorable evening.

There was so much to plan: the invites, the publicity, the posters, the guestbook, the bar, the catering, the layout, the roster and order of events, the securing of chairs (the space has no seating), the hangers for coats, the art work for the walls/tables, the FAQ for directions (the space is pretty hard to find, apologies to all those who got lost on the way!), the soap and toilet paper for the bathroom…the list goes on and on.

Landing the acts was the easy part, and I have to thank them all, not just for their incredible artistry but also for being so willing and enthusiastic. Susan Burns had a special costume made for the party, and hell, even a gay guy has to admit that it was smoking hot (and not because of all that fire). Susan’s first performance to Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know” set the tone and the expectations for the evening, and boy did she impress us all.

Check it out:

 

 

 

Next up was Maya Solovey. Maya and I have been Park Slope Co-op shift partners for about a year now, and we always have a good time shooting the shit and laughing (we have the easiest job in the Co-op) After hearing snippets of her film score and watching her videos online, I knew I wanted her to play, and being the super chill amazing lady that she is, she said yes. Maya looked stunning and her voice blew the crowd away, with Taylor and Bob accompanying on Cello and Bass. So many people came up to me after the performance and asked me about her. Maya is promoting a new album now and you can see the video for her new single “Ring Ring Ring” here (and check out her web page: http://mayasolovey.com/)

Here are some pics and video of her performing:

 

 

 

After Maya it was my turn to take the stage. I wanted to acknowledge all the people that helped me put the book and the party together–a VERY long list. And I tried, but I really should have written a speech, since as expected, I forgot so many people. It’s nerve wracking, since I wanted to seem like all casual and off the cuff and from the heart, and in the process I forgot to thank two of the most important people, Jeff Bucari the photographer and Jason Covert the designer of the art work, and I had to go up to the mike a few minutes later and continue my speech. Yikes! I also forgot to mention my family (love you all, so many came out) and Jane Elias, my copy editor and dear friend. Luckily I didn’t forget anyone in the acknowledgments page. (I hope)

 

 

 

After the thank-yous I read the shortest story in the collection, “The Coming Revolution.” Gotta keep it short and move on to the more exciting stuff. Which luckily for me was the “surprise” performance of the evening, an aerialist. I didn’t book this until literally the day before the party, and only because Josh the owner of the Ballroom asked if I wanted an aerialist. Who doesn’t want an aerialist? Seriously. Roman did an amazing ten minute performance, even more amazing since he performs without a net or any safety gear. Plus, he’s kind of hot. (There, I said it. Roman, call me. Let’s talk about your moves.)

Check it out:

 

 

 

 

Last and certainly not least, the Discosticks. What can I say? The band killed it. These guys are going to be huge, and I’m just lucky enough to have booked them early. Shane bought a slinky striped dress especially for the occasion, and not only did the boys sound so awesome, they just have this mesmerizing stage presence. We got to hear new gender-fucking retakes on such classics as “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, “Brass in Pocket” and “Respect” as well as newer pop songs like “Edge of Glory” and “Bad Romance.” The band did amazing mash-ups too, combining “What’s Going On?” with Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.” Major thanks to Shane, Mykee, Ryan and Dan for bringing it hard and making us dance our asses off. Book these guys now while you still have a chance! Follow them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/thediscosticksnyc) and on Twitter (@discosticksNYC)

Pics and video:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point, it was almost 1am, so I threw on some dance music and the crowd that remained danced and got treated to a second performance by Susan Burns, which was even better than the first, if that’s possible. Lucky us. Check it out:

 

All in all, a truly magical evening. Thank you one and all to those who managed to make it out (almost 200 of you!)  I am so blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life. I appreciate your support and hope you had an amazing time! Here are some more pictures, but please go on Facebook to see a whole lot more…

 

 

Everything Will be Fine. Better than Fine.

I’m supposed to be using this space to tell you how super psyched I am about my launch party at the Gowanus Ballroom in two days(!)–and believe me, I am–and how great it’s going to be–it probably will be–but I’m also riddled with anxiety. I’ve hosted many parties in my day, but none anywhere near as big as this one is looking to be. About 150 people have said yes via the invites or directly to me, and now that the bands and other people have invited another 800 people (on top of the almost 500 I invited), I’m guessing that there might be even more than that. Which is a great thing, as all publicity is a great thing. But I also feel like I hyped the party a lot, and now I have to deliver, especially with quite a few people flying (from L.A., Florida, Toronto, Seattle) or driving/busing (DC, Boston) in to attend. The last thing I want anyone to feel is, I came all the way for this?

The space is pretty great, but it’s also really raw. I’ve been dropping stuff off all week, and well, it’s a working metal works studio, which means it’ not going to look like a place to throw a party until probably a few hours before, which I know is just fine, but makes me nervous. I had to gather up a healthy amount of folding chairs because there’s really nowhere to sit, and even though it doesn’t feel like a space where people want to sit, I also know that a lot of peeps don’t like to stand for a long time. There should be some cool art up on the walls, but I’m not in charge of that, so who knows. There will definitely be an indoor tree house. That I can guarantee.

As much as I’d like to think the big draw is the book launch, I know it’s all about the entertainment. I feel super psyched about Susan Burn’s two fire dancing performances, hearing the simply incredible Maya Solovey perform live, and dancing up a storm to the Discosticks tearing through a whole host of great female pop song covers. These performers will make the party, and if they’re the dessert that gets people to taste the broccoli of my reading, I’m OK with it.(Not that my reading is good for you)  I’ll try to be entertaining too, but writers are no match for musicians and dancers.

So why all this anxiety? The band needs a bass amp and drum kit, and I had to track those down, which took a while, but it seems like I have and I’m picking both up tomorrow. Of course I imagine several things going wrong: the drums don’t work (is that even possible?) or the amp blows out or the whole sound system breaks down or Brooklyn has a blackout or a hurricane. We run out of food (likely; I’m not feeding 150+ people) or people get lost because it’s a bit hard to find (also likely, but eventually, everyone will find it. Or not.) or someone decides to get super drunk and trip over a sculpture or down the stairs or start a fight. Worse than all that:  almost no one buys the book! Aaah! That would be bad.

Ok, taking several deep breaths. I will enjoy myself and whatever happens. People will have fun. The crowd will be a great, totally manageable size and no one will feel shortchanged. The book will move and some will actually read it and some of those some might recommend it to others, and so on and so on. Yes. That’s it.

See you Saturday!